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Disaster Preparedness At Work

emergencyprepchecklist_medAs I said in a recent post, as an NYC professional organizer, I make it my business to think ahead.

That means reflecting on subjects running the gamut from the relatively light, such as how to deal with excess paper in the workplace, to the more serious, such as how to prepare for a sudden disaster that occurs when you are at work, which is the subject of today’s post.

Keeping a Cool Head

With such happenings as the two major blackouts of the last decade and a half and the dark events of September 11, 2001, in mind, it can be tempting to grow nervous thinking about the next disaster that takes place when you are in the workplace.

But instead of embracing your inner worrier, visualize yourself responding with mindfulness and awareness. Keeping a cool head when things get serious is a trait that some people seem to be born with, but it’s also a trait that can be developed. As an NYC professional organizer, that is something that I have learned.

So, breathe. Breathe now, as you picture a disaster scenario, and also visualize yourself breathing when it actually takes place. You’re going to need your clearest thoughts on this day. And, in order to have them, you’re going to have to breathe, and breathe well.

Open your eyes. Again, this goes for right now, and the day of the disaster. Where are the emergency exits in your building? Where will you walk, if that was the only way to get around, once you exit the building, as a disaster unfolds?

Alternatively, it may be that the best choice to shelter in place that day, meaning to stay in your building. You will want to listen to the authorities, observe the scene around you, and remain calm. Having a plan set up, one with both home and office organizing tips included, is what the next part of this post covers. Having a plan will make keeping calm a lot easier!

Planning Ahead, Writing it Down

Disasters make all of us think of our loved ones. Whether this is spouses, children, parents, friends, or all of the above, having plans in place will diminish the stress and increase the likelihood and speed of reunion with your cherished ones.

Things to resolve, and write down, before the day:

  1. If you and a spouse are responsible for multiple generations, which of you will tend to parents, and which to children? Have this out, and agree on a partition of responsibility. It may be that you each have to go tend to these dear ones separately for a day or more.
  2. List of actions for the childcare provider to follow, and names of trusted friend or family member who may pick children up in an emergency provided to childcare provider. (If you work in Manhattan, and your children are in Stamford, you should not expect to walk to them. Provide list of names, this week, to childcare provider of someone who can get there by foot in an emergency.)
  3. Have home emergency preparedness kit set up, so that when you and your loved ones arrive home, it is ready to serve as an emergency operations camp.
  4. Have a flexible communications plan and have contact info written down. If the electricity goes out, it’s difficult to predict what form of communications may be restored first. It could be land line telephone, cellular phones, or computers via wifi or communications cables. It could be one of these forms of communication in one part of the city, and another one in a different part of town. Do you have your most important contacts printed on paper (or, even better, plasticized) in your wallet?
  5. Have some non-perishable food, and some bottled water, at work (not only at home). That sealed bag of trail mix could be a game-changer, or more, in an emergency and the water will be even more important.
  6. Have at least two meeting places planned with your loved one(s). As we learned during September 11, one part of town may need to be evacuated. You should have meeting places planned in more than one area of town.

Can every eventuality be foreseen? Perhaps not. But by following these home and office organizing tips difficult experiences such as the ones New York City has seen before can be weathered in better shape.