Lessons from Hurricane Irene about Checklists and Preparation
Hurricane Irene is on her way out this afternoon, while certain thoughts of clarity are fresh. The concepts and new understanding come from both successes and failures of preparation. Here are some of the things I learned:
On Friday, we convened in our conference room to review our hurricane disaster plan. We confirmed all contact numbers for our staff, discussed service providers (adding a few with whom we've been impressed, and deleting one who has disappointed us), and decided to open early on Monday morning. Our office has three tiers of responsibility, including off-hours and off-site expectations, so we reviewed these responsibilities with Val Feeney, our newest employee in Tier 1. Kasey McCarthy updated and printed hard copies of a packet for every employee with insurance company contact numbers, staff contact, and of course a small supply of initial claims questionnaires. On Sunday, we reported from our respective homes what kind of damage we expected; this was very helpful in preparing further for Monday's expected call volume.
On Saturday, I boarded up our two large picture windows at our office at 680 Main Street in Norwell Center. While we do have a generator for our IT and basic office needs, the last thing we wanted was an office full of glass and rain to greet us on Monday morning. In addition, we didn't know even by Saturday afternoon whether the storm would track more northeasterly than it did. The lesson: probably not necessary for this particular event, but we'll do it again for the next hurricane if predictions merit.
At home, we ran through the checklist on our Hurricane Resources page, and included some personal tasks that will be on a more detailed checklist we'll draft after this storm. Here's a tip: DO the checklist. All of it. My new understanding about checklists is this: we didn't know that in less than 24 hours we were going to lose power for 48+ hours; but we DID know that the chance of losing power was the greatest it'd been since Hurricane Earl (a lesser dud from 2010). Thus, we were grateful for everything we did when power went out at about 11:00 on Sunday morning.
To illustrate, we took one step for our personal food needs that will be helpful whether or not we actually have an insurance claim to file. Since we have a $2,500 deductible, I know that any food loss is on my nickel, so we should plan as though we were headed on a 2-3 day camping trip. We filled two coolers: one with meats and frozen cold packs; and closed. We won't open until we have power again. The other has milk, salad fixings, cheese, and non-frozen meat that we'll work through over the next couple days. We won't open the fridge until we have power, and only then decide what gets tossed out. But in the meantime, our food preparation will keep food needs off our task list as we get back to work Monday.
Here's a mistake...I didn't have my cell phone fully powered on Sunday morning, so am now in the office (powered by a generator) Sunday afternoon writing this blog while my cell phone powers up. New phones are such power hogs, even 24-36 hours will drain most smart phones. Furthermore, I sent this picture (below) to other Tier 1 employees as a measure of what the week would bring us. Lesson: I needed my phone to check emails, texts, and send images. I used it a lot. I should have been more attentive to power, and may now spring for a second (fully charged) battery as backup.
So here is the main lesson: take the time to work through a hurricane (or any pre-storm) checklist. There are many that are good, we link several from our Hurricane Resources page. While we never know for sure how bad it could get (and Irene really wasn't nearly as destructive here as it could have been), when it is bad, an ounce of prevention truly is worth a pound of cure.