Monday, September 29, 2014

America's PrepareAthon! 2014

America's PrepareAthon! is an opportunity for individuals, organizations, and communities to prepare for emergencies through drills, group discussions, and exercises.

National PrepareAthon! Day is September 30 and it is designed to prompt us all to take the actions to prepare for these six specific hazards:

So what can you do as part of America’s PrepareAthon? The goal of this campaign is to increase the number of people and organizations who understand what disasters could happen in their community. Knowing what might happen helps understand how to prepare. We want people to know what they can do to be safe and how they can reduce the impact of emergencies.

Most importantly we want people to take action. Just do one thing to make you, your family, your school, your business or your organization better prepared. Just pick one of the steps toward making yourself “Red Cross Ready”. We are sure that completing one of the steps will lead to completing the other two and that will lead you to be better prepared.

Some other things you might consider as part of America’s PrepareAthon would be to work within your community or organization to set up preparedness events. Talk to your neighbors or coworkers about what they have done. You might plan a “preparedness party or potluck”. You could attend a neighborhood watch meeting and suggest getting a speaker to talk about preparedness. You could request a speaker from the American Red Cross to give the Be Red Cross Ready class to a group of neighbors or coworkers. You could attend the Be Red Cross Ready class offered by your local Red Cross chapter.

There are many ways to participate in America’s PrepareAthon and even more way to improve your preparedness. Check out FEMA’s PrepareAthon Web Site for a fact sheet and other ideas.

Most importantly, do something! Be Smart. Take Part. Prepare.  Don't wait until it is too late!

What Hazards Could Shutter Your Business?

By Jana Mathieson

If you’re a business owner or leader, you may have already thought through what you would do in case of a fire or a flood. You may have a great plan in place to ensure continuity of your business operations. But have you taken into consideration what would happen if the business two doors down suddenly exploded, or the gas station down the street had a hazardous leak?

Many businesses plan for emergencies, but if you don’t know what to plan for, how can you create a good plan?

Philip Niemer, Director of Operational Contingency and Emergency Management at Children’s Hospital Colorado (Children’s Colorado), thinks about emergencies every day.  

“What will close or seriously impede operations at the facility?” is the question he asks -- and looks to answer -- in his position at Children’sColorado.

In order to help answer this question, Niemer has developed a free Hazard Vulnerability Assessment (HVA) tool that has more than 120 items to be considered. Niemer started working on the tool because health care has no specific requirements for an HVA; what to include or how to complete an HVA is not outlined. Niemer realized that HVA requirements for other industries are also not specific, so he made the tool 100% customizable.

Businesses can use the tool created by Niemer to develop their own, fully customized Hazard Vulnerability Assessment. Users have control over the data, and can enter data and parameters that work in each industry and location.

Niemer recommends that businesses complete the assessment on an annual basis and focus on concerns that rise to the top. Each year, the list should change as plans are put in place to mitigate potential harm. “How well a business recovers from an emergency or disaster depends on a proactive approach before the emergency happens,” Niemer said. The HVA tool helps in this process.

The best thing about the tool? It is free. Absolutely free. Niemer wants it to be used and shared and improved upon by the people using it.

Niemer, along with Jerrod Milton, VP of Operations at Children’s Colorado, will be providing an overview of the tool and why doing an HVA is important, at the Rocky Mountain Business Preparedness Academy on September 30, 2014. All attendees at the Academy will receive the tool along with additional information about how to complete a Hazard Vulnerability Assessment.

To learn more and register for the Business Preparedness Academy, click here: The cost for the full day is $25.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

You Never Know Who Will Step Up and Help

Natalie Johnson
Director Manitou Springs Art District
By Jana Mathieson

In 2013, the city of Manitou Springs knew they could be in for flood trouble. They were right. Businesses and residents had been told in advance that flooding was possible. But what did that really mean? What it meant was that people could not be in their homes, businesses shut down and services were interrupted. And yet, the city survived -- thanks in part to people being prepared.

Natalie Johnson, Director of Manitou Springs Arts District, accidentally attended a preparedness training, and that turned out to be stroke of good fortune. She hadn’t planned on going, but the training was being held in her building and she decided to pop in upon discovering a bit of free time in her day. The training opened her eyes to the likely threats facing her community and her business. After the training, Johnson got nervous and bought weather radios, set up a communication plan and trained her staff. However, she really didn’t know how bad it would be.

During the floods, over 4,000 people were fed, 2,000 volunteers coordinated and City Hall was temporarily set up at the Arts District. “It was amazing how people stepped up, and during an emergency you learn that it doesn’t matter what your business is, you help the community,” Johnson said.

Johnson will be sharing her story and advice at a presentation at the Rocky Mountain Business Preparedness Academy on September 30, 2014. As part of a panel of flood survivors, she and other community members will talk about what they learned and how to prepare better.

“There is always more to learn, more to do,” Johnson said. “You have to let people help and be a part of the process.”

To learn more about the Business Preparedness Academy or to register, visit The cost is $25.

A flood recovery solution MacGyver would be proud of

By Patricia Billinger
Let’s play a game I’ll call “Name that tool.”
Take a look at this picture:

Now, I’ll give you three guesses what the wood thing in the trailer is used for.
…Nope, it’s not part of a house or for constructing a house.
…No, it’s not a fence of some sort.
….Not scaffolding, either, although that’s not far off.

Give up? It’s a bridge. And not just any bridge: this bridge is mobile; it’s in a trailer so that the Glen Haven community can take it anywhere it might be needed to provide access over rivers and streams that are otherwise currently impassible.

The mobile bridge was the brainchild of a Southern Baptist Disaster Relief visiting volunteer, who was here to help with flood relief efforts but who also happened to be a civil engineer. One of the many challenges facing communities recovering from the 2013 floods is that countless small bridges were damaged or destroyed during the floods, eliminating crucial access points to homes and property on the other side of waterways.

The civil engineer got to work designing a bridge that could be easily assembled, disassembled, and moved – providing an alternative to the more costly and time-consuming solution of constructing more durable bridges. The Red Cross purchased the materials for the bridge, and a team of Southern Baptist Convention volunteers constructed it in a single day.

Most recently, Glen Haven leaders were putting the bridge to use on a section of the North Fork river to enable access forest service land along highway 43 so they can clean up flood debris that was washed downstream.

“The bridge that the Southern Baptists built, that’s been quite a Godsend because it has helped us help the forest service clean up non-organic debris downstream,” said Dave Johnson, president of the Glen Haven Association. He said the clean-up effort has allowed Glen Haven residents to retrieve a variety of items that washed downstream during the flood, such as “artifacts, merchandise, private property, a section of a table – we even found a complete roof of one of our buildings,” he said.

“A lot of that debris is from Glen Haven, so we’re able to get things back that belong to downtown Glen Haven,” said Linda Lambert of the Glen Haven Fire Department, which is managing the use of the bridge. “They’re pretty happy to have it back because I know, in [one business owner’s] case, it’s all she has left of her house and business.”