Red Cross urges disaster preparation for businesses

  • Wed Sep 29th, 2010 9:19am

By M.L. Dehm SCBJ Freelance Writer

MARYSVILLE — The final date of a virtual blanket drive at all local Fred Meyer stores is set for Oct. 2. The campaign is a joint venture between Fred Meyer and the American Red Cross.

The event that kicked off Sept. 11 is part of an education and fundraising effort in honor of National Preparedness Month. Each Saturday during the drive, Red Cross volunteers greet customers at Fred Meyer stores with disaster preparedness checklists and the opportunity to take a donation card.

The disaster preparedness checklists suggest items that every home should have on hand, such as water and a first-aid kit, in case of an emergency.

Donation cards have a bar code that is scanned at the Fred Meyer cash register with the rest of a customer’s purchases. Donation card funds are then forwarded to the American Red Cross.

A $4 donation is enough to provide a blanket for an individual affected by fire or other disaster in the region.

“We’re pleased that Fred Meyer was able to do this,” said Chuck Morrison, executive director of the Snohomish County chapter of the American Red Cross. “We’ve had nothing but great support from the Fred Meyer stores and great comments from their customers.”

Although National Preparedness Month ended Sept. 30, Morrison encourages businesses to review emergency plans and supplies in case of disaster. He pointed to Hurricane Katrina as an example where a great number of small businesses never reopened.

“That is businesses under 10 people,” Morrison said. “And I know that in Snohomish County a great majority of businesses have 10 people or less.”

Simple things such as an owner keeping a phone list of employees at home and making sure data is backed up remotely can make a big difference in the event of a disaster.

“I’ve heard of business hit by disasters that lost their entire accounts receivable,” Morrison said. “And small businesses want to take advantage of their relationship with their insurance agent to make sure they are up to date with the best plan that they can afford.”

Janene Rae, health and safety services director of the Snohomish County Chapter of the American Red Cross, suggested other key areas on which businesses can focus. The first is to make sure that employees can be cared for and accommodated in a time of disaster such as an earthquake or other serious event.

“We have a lot of bridges in Snohomish County,” Rae said. “If you can’t get home and your employees are stuck at the business, do you have the things necessary to care for your employees?”

This is more complicated for larger businesses, especially those that serve large numbers of customers at any one time such as a theater, clinic or bank. Customer care in a time of disaster needs to be planned in advance.

“You might have 20 or 30 people in your place that you are responsible for,” Rae said.

There is also the question of whether a business can function without power or utilities. A backup plan for operation without those services can keep a business open when others have to close.

Rae also recommends providing training so employees know how to keep their families be safe if they can’t get home.

“Take me for example,” Rae said. “I’m with the American Red Cross. If there is a disaster, I’m not going to be able to run home and check on my family. I’m needed here.”

Other businesses that may require employees to remain at the workplace during a disaster include health-care clinics and hospitals, insurance agencies and many others.

Preparedness can offer both employee and customer safety and ensure continued operations.