September is National Preparedness Month in the United States, a time to reflect on your personal, family, and business preparedness in the event of a disaster.
In this episode of the Managing Uncertainty Podcast, Bryghtpath Principal & CEO Bryan Strawser and Senior Consultant Jennifer Otremba talk through national preparedness month and how it can be used as a catalyst to drive awareness and improved resiliency within your family and your organization. Topics discussed include past successful National Preparedness Month (NPM) events, using NPM for awareness, tying your campaign to specific themes being used nationally, and working with other organizations from the non-profit community.
Bryan Strawser: It’s September.
Jen Otremba: It is.
Bryan Strawser: And September every year in the United States is National Preparedness Month, or NPM, because federal government likes acronyms.
Jen Otremba: Yeah. Yep, that’s true. This particular munch, for our line of work, is really important, and we’ve used it a lot of times with previous employers that we’ve had.
Bryan Strawser: And clients today.
Jen Otremba: And clients that we have today to talk about these things of being prepared.
Bryan Strawser: Yeah, so we’ve often used National Preparedness Month as kind of a communication and awareness month. We did it at our previous employer, and we’ve done it with clients. We actually have a client with a major awareness campaign all centered on National Preparedness Month. But it’s a great time to engage with your employees because there’s a lot of messaging, state, local, county, federal government through FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security and the Ready Campaign and the American Red Cross and others about how to be prepared personally, at your business, at your church, and in other activities that you may or may not be involved in.
Jen Otremba: Yeah, it’s a great reset, and like you said, there’s always events going on around National Preparedness Month, so it’s the best time to be talking about it in your … Not just your business, but also your home.
Bryan Strawser: National Preparedness Month always has a set of themes. The theme this year from the Ready Campaign … This is FEMA’s group that works on individual and community preparedness. You can learn more about them at ready.gov, which is a FEMA website. But the theme this year is Disasters Don’t Plan Ahead, You Can.
Jen Otremba: Which I love, because we always use that. We talk about that all the time. Make a plan.
Bryan Strawser: We do. We can all take action to prepare, and their themes all revolved around the National Preparedness Month goal of increasing the number of individuals, families, and communities that engage in preparedness actions at their home, work, business, school, and places of worship. Within that theme there’s a different focus every week. This year, the first theme is Make a Plan For Yourself, Your Family, and Your Friends. So, what we’re talking about here is … Like the episode that we had done of this podcast a few weeks ago about how do you engage in personal preparedness, and it’s all about make a plan, have a kit, and be informed.
Jen Otremba: It starts with yourself, right. Yourself or your home and your family and your immediate neighbors.
Bryan Strawser: Here we’re thinking about what is your family’s preparedness and response plan. If something were to happen and you had to leave your home or your place of work, where would you meet? Do you have an emergency kit that has the right contents in it, and have you practiced that plan?
Jen Otremba: Right, and are you communicating that plan to others outside of the household?
Bryan Strawser: Do your kids know? Do your parents, your in-laws, your … What have you.
Jen Otremba: Your brothers and your sisters and all the people that you care about. Do they know what your plan is?
Bryan Strawser: The week two theme this year is Plan to Help Your Neighbor and Community. So, here, how can you work together as a neighborhood or as a group of friends, perhaps, that are nearby, and how does your plan fit into the broader community plan of what will your local community do in a disaster? And this can be as simple as what you might do as the neighborly thing when your neighbors have a disaster. You take them in and you share your clothing and you give them food and water. I mean, what would you do if your neighbor’s house was on fire? These are all things that I think almost all of us would want to do.
Jen Otremba: And it’s kind of like a neighborhood watch, right. So, if you’re getting together with your neighbors and talking about these things. There’s all kinds of things that you can do to prepare, so if you have special skillsets … Let’s say you’re in EMS work or you have CPR certification and things like that. Those are good things to share so that when things happen, the neighbors know who to go to for different things. Or, as simple as I’m a generator technician on the side, or something like that. Those are good skills to share with your neighbors.
Bryan Strawser: I need a neighbor that’s an electrician and I need a neighbor that’s a plumber. And right now I need a neighbor that’s a tree cutter.
Jen Otremba: Yeah. Well, ironically, we always joke in the National Guard … Those that have listened to us before, I’m a member of the National Guard. We always joke in the National Guard about how everyone has multiple skillsets. We go overseas in the National Guard and you’ve got electricians and you’ve got carpenters. You build entire camps because everyone has all these different skills. So, same kind of thing, same kind of idea, I think, here.
Bryan Strawser: The week three theme this year is Practice and Build Out Your Plans. We always talk about, in business, of doing exercises to practice, to build the muscle memory for executing your plans, and this is similar, although we probably … None of us think that you should be exercising your personal, your family preparedness plan. But think about being in your home and there’s a fire, and do you and your spouse and your children know what you would do? Have you practiced? Do they know where to go? Or, you have a break-in in your home. What is your family’s plan in that situation? Where do you go? Where do you shelter?
Jen Otremba: Yeah, and I think building out the plan, right. If you’ve practiced these things, you know what … You might have a better idea of what’s going to work and what isn’t. So, you might want to make some changes to your plans if you realize, oh, that’s not going to work because I can’t actually get out that window because it’s on the second floor, or whatever the issue is.
Bryan Strawser: Right. The week four theme is Get Involved, Be a Part of Something Larger. I think this is their patriotic, so to speak, call to action. How can you be involved beyond just your family and perhaps your neighbors? So, you can look at things like the FEMA community emergency response team training where you’re learning how can you help your broader community in a natural disaster? You might be helping clear brush or something, but there’s lots of things that CERT teams do as a part of a local or regional response to an incident. What are some other ideas?
Jen Otremba: The American Red Cross is another good place to go to. If you can go to the American Red Cross website, they actually have different areas where you can volunteer different things, even pet rescue and things like that that you may forget about. There’s different information on those there too.
Bryan Strawser: You may also find that there are volunteer opportunities. There’s often volunteer opportunities with your city police department, with the fire department, with EMS, with your county sheriff’s office. There’s probably even volunteer opportunities at the county or state level with the Emergency Management Agencies where you can go through some training and be selected as a volunteer, and then be able to help them in a capacity that is beyond just taking care of your family and your neighbors in the event of a emergency. I know you and I worked with several folks who had been in law enforcement but had left law enforcement to join the private sector, but still volunteered as reserve officers and deputies on everything from the water patrol to the mounted horse park patrol to working the street as a volunteer officer that had arrest power and was able to assist police or sheriff departments in those situations.
Jen Otremba: Yeah. I’ve been involved with several different sort of mass disaster type scenarios with the National Guard, and entire communities truly do come together to fill sand bags and to help their neighbors out and to help local businesses out and things like that.
Bryan Strawser: We talked earlier, but we want to dive into this a little bit, that National Preparedness Month is really a great opportunity to think about how you can use this month and the messaging that’s happening outside of your business to drive things into your business, even if it’s nothing more than helping your employee base become more prepared personally and as a family, because we know that when a disaster strikes your community, it’s going to impact both your employees and their families and that kind of nuclear center of their universe. But it’s also going to impact your business, and if they’re not well-prepared or they’re worried about what’s going on at home, they’re not going to be able to come and help recover the business because they’re going to be tied up with taking care of what’s most important to them, which is not your work.
Jen Otremba: Yeah. Believe it or not, that’s not going to be the number one thing that they’re worried about at that given time. But, like you said, if they know that their family is okay and taken care of, then they can concentrate on what’s next.
Bryan Strawser: So, one thing that we’ve done … And we’ve recently completed this campaign for a large client of ours. But you can do a great internal awareness and education campaign using National Preparedness Month themes. We’ve created posters and tri-fold brochures and …
Jen Otremba: Table top.
Bryan Strawser: Yeah, table talkers, as we used to call them.
Jen Otremba: Yeah, table talkers.
Bryan Strawser: And a slew of online content. Digital collateral material, training posters, awareness posters, tips.
Jen Otremba: We’ve brought speakers in with different levels of expertise in different areas.
Bryan Strawser: These are all things that you can do to drive awareness. You can use the collateral, obviously, to kind of drive some awareness around what’s going on, but you mentioned speakers. It’s great to bring people in that can really engage an audience around some type of preparedness or response topic that kind of crosses the chasm between personal, family, and the business environments. At our private employer, we had brought in Rich Serino who had been the deputy administrator, was the deputy administrator at FEMA at the time, and had led their on-the-ground response in Joplin, Missouri where you had this enormous impact on a community. I mean, one of the worst tornado strikes in American history, and incredible tales of heroism.
Jen Otremba: Resilience.
Bryan Strawser: And resilience that came out of that, which also this massive impact to schools, to churches, to businesses that were also impacted, and the difficulty the city went through in trying to bring all of that forward. Joplin’s really been a great case study of how to do that right.
Jen Otremba: Yeah, it was really successful, I think, at getting employees to really start thinking about hey, this really could happen to me or it could happen to all of us, or it could happen to anyone. So, it really was good at opening eyes of what can be done to prepare and what can be done in the response of.
Bryan Strawser: You can also do events with your local public safety agencies. I mean, everyone likes to go out and play with fire trucks. You can bring in the fire department and the police and EMS and emergency management, and they can have a chance to show off their toys, and your employees can have a chance to interact and hear from professionals lessons about how to be better prepared or how to be … How to respond, how to recover in long-term, and you can play with their … What they want you to do, right.
Jen Otremba: Or what they want from you in that situation, yeah. You can also schedule tours at different places, at different GSOC centers and Fusion centers and things like that, which can be really good to get people involved and interested, which we’ve done that before too.
Bryan Strawser: We have. So, those are a few ideas for National Preparedness Month. We’ll link in the show notes some links to the Ready Campaign, to the American Red Cross, and to other resources that are out there for free that you can use as a part of this.
Jen Otremba: Also, if you’re looking for any ideas on how … Any additional ideas and what we’ve already talked about on how to prepare yourself, your community, your businesses. We’re always here to help as well at Bryghtpath.