Living Through a Disaster: Are You and Your Employees Prepared?
by Betsy Burton
Sitting on my front porch at 2:30 AM, August 19, 2020, I could see the glow from the fire getting brighter. We had watched the wildfire coming down the coast just south of San Francisco earlier that day but were not immediately concerned as it was 20-30 miles away from our house as the crow flies. There were a lot of mountainous ridges between us and the fire.
But then, there we were 8 hours later in the middle of the night feeling a solid wind blowing the fire, which was now 5-6 miles away, directly towards us. We could begin to see charred oak and redwood branches landing on our driveway. We left.
The fire came fast. By 6:30 AM we watched from a safe distance as a huge ball of fire consumed our house and everything inside.
All that was left was a metal roof and ashes.
The reality is, we may prepare for some disaster to hit, but even as I loaded a few photos, scrapbooks, and documents in the car, I didn’t actually conceive that it would take everything. It is difficult to get your head around that concept, let alone figure out what to grab.
What Did I Learn From What I Grabbed?
Living in the country in California, we were prepared with a “go” box in case of fire. We had key documents, such as our wedding certificate, birth certificates, deeds, etc. We also grabbed the plans to our house and photos that we had taken documenting our internals for insurance purposes. We also grabbed computers, tablets, mobiles, and storage devices.
That is when practical thinking went out the window. I grabbed scrapbooks, an old teddy bear, childhood art and as many old photos as I could think of. I filled a bag with some clothing as if I were going away for the weekend. And my work boots. Somehow, I knew I was going to need my work boots.
I should have grabbed more; my favorite leather jacket from Argentina, paintings, oriental rugs, and vases made by my friend Mattie Leeds.
But we got out with our dogs; we are safe and together.
Our Community Kicked Into High Gear
I will never cease to be amazed by and grateful to our friends and family who just jumped on getting us taken care of. By 8:30AM, I had filed a claim with USAA. By 11:00AM, my sister-in-law had found us a place to stay for a few weeks, and my friend Mo had found us a fully furnished place to rent longer term.
Molly and Steve dropped off grocery bags overflowing with fruit and vegetables and a bouquet of flowers. Katie immediately shipped me a new yoga mat. Susan called from Denver to tell me she was shipping us boxes of new sheets, towels, comforter, and bathrobes. Ingfei brought us clothing and office supplies to help us get organized.
Over the next few days, friends, family, and complete strangers reached out to help with resources, supplies, kind words, and encouragement.
Back to Work
The good news in all of this is that all my work-in-progress was exactly where I needed it to be to get up and running again: document management, calendar, email, communications, and workplace applications.
As a remote employee, I was used to working in my home office. So, with the fire, I just moved my home office to a new location seamlessly. A week after the fire, I was doing a webinar, attended a research meeting, and met with a client.
As we have discussed in a number of blogs and research notes, we have seen a dramatic shift to employees working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The question for organizations is: would your remote employees be able to get back up and running in a reasonable amount of time if they were affected by some disaster (fire, flood, storm, earthquake, etc.)? Have you developed a plan for your remote workers?
Having ready access to communications, apps, and information has made this experience so much more manageable. But it is the people on the other side of that technology that are the most amazing. The technology got us to the individuals and communities we needed quickly and enabled us to easily share information.
Aragon Research operates with a fully cloud-based infrastructure model that enabled me to keep moving forward with my work, even as everything else was a bit upside down. A bit of work was actually a welcome distraction.
Growing up in the military, I was used to picking up and starting new. I have discovered this was great training for recovering from a disaster. Plan. Prepare. Act. And just keep putting one foot in front of the other.