A monument is a living structure that will last through the ages. Monuments on the scale of the Pyramids of Giza, Mt. Rushmore, and the Taj Mahal stand as living testaments, immovable in their size, scope, and emotion. Monuments are also part of the culture and community for those that build them. Monuments represent centers for religious commemoration, the commemoration of significant historical events, and, of course, the remembrance of our honored dead. Monuments are a tangible link between the past and the future, a means by which our values and memories are passed to future generations.
Unfortunately, through natural disaster and man made acts monuments all too often fall. History is replete with the stories of monuments lost or damaged through disaster or human act. The Cambodian Buddha’s destroyed by the Khmer Rouge, the face of the Sphinx defaced by a retreating Rommel, and countless grave markers lost to flood, fire or quake throughout the world.
During the recovery from a disaster, the restoration of these monuments and memorials restores the very soul of a community. For the monument industry and monument builders, restoring the place of our ancestors and past heroes is more than just a daily business, it is a sacred trust.
Two Keys to Preparedness
There are two keys for a monument builder in preparing for a disaster. The first is to insure their own business continuity that is to insure that they themselves will survive the disaster intact and ready to contribute. The second is to learn to “profit from disaster.”
The First Key – Prepare and Plan
Insuring your own presence and continued business viability after a disaster is a simple matter of planning and preparation. The preparation must occur at three levels personal, family, and business. At all three levels each individual must prepare for 72 hours of self efficiency. If a natural disaster were to strike your location right now, this moment, are you prepared? Do you have your evacuation plan mapped out? Do you have a three-day supply of food and water available for each member of your family? Do you have a “Go-Kit”? For most people, the answer to each of these questions is “no.”
Unfortunately, this “zero resiliency” is a byproduct of our current economy. Many businesses have and promote a “just in time” mentality. Even marketers encourage consumers to adopt a “just in time” outlook. Few people these days buy a week’s worth of groceries anymore. Instead, they stop by the grocery store on their way home from work to purchase enough food for the evening meal and next morning’s breakfast. As such, few people are prepared to self-sustain in times of disaster.
In some part of the country, kindergarten children are learning hands-on to prepare a three-day “Go-Kit.” The kit includes:
- Three days of clothing including underwear;
- Thee days of energy bars or shelf-stable packaged food;
- Three days of water;
- One week’s toiletries, including toothbrush, hairbrush, toothpaste and toilet paper;
- A two-week’s medication;
- A USB flash drive containing medical records and a document inventory device;
- One roll of quarters (for pay phones, which are self-powered);
- Photos of each family member;
- List of each family member with age and contact telephone numbers (cell phone);
- List of two local and two out-of-state family members or friends with addresses and phone numbers;
- Backpack to place all items within.
In addition to assembling the Go-Kit, these children learn their local information sources such as: TV stations and the radio stations that broadcast TV stations when TV is not available, weather services, local access cable, local government EOC numbers and local print media. They will also memorize the four family and friends with their associated phone numbers, as well as practice the use of the various information channels that they chose.
Finally, homework assignments that get the parents involved in mapping the location of the closest appropriate evacuation shelter for the family. In some communities this may be the family “safe room” be it an interior bathroom or basement. In other communities it may represent a Red Cross shelter or even a special-needs shelter established by local government or health department.
Family plan is not significantly different from the individual plan. Each family within your organization must create for themselves a plan that not only includes sheltering in place or evacuation, but contact point and means by which they will gather together in the event of the disaster should strike when they are separated.
Similarly, a business must ensure the continuity of its finances, its information systems and its business processes. Business continuity has gone far beyond simple data back ups to all site data redundancy services. Plans to lease or even purchase alternate business site in the event that your business site has been destroyed. Like a family evacuating to a shelter or moving to a hotel in the event of home damage. Your business must have another place to live.
A business that wants to thrive after a disaster must also go one step beyond by becoming part of the community disaster plan. Contact the emergency operation center and the county emergency manager and offer to provide services during the response and recovery phases of the disaster. An unfortunate reality of large scale natural and man made disasters is disinterment of the dead creating the need to only to re-inter the dead, but to appropriately and respectfully denote their locations. This is an invaluable service for a community in recovery and offering to provide that service before disaster strikes insures that when a disaster strikes resources will be allocated to your business operation. In short, it insures that you are open before your competition.
The Second Key – Profiting from Disaster
Although the phrase is distasteful, the reality is that following the disaster any business closed more than four weeks is likely to never reopen. Few businesses have the financial capital to sustain themselves, their debts, their employees and their owners greater than that critical four weeks. Even with financial assistance, those businesses that do reopen often falter under weight of preexisting and “restart up” debt. Therefore business survival depends on learning to profit from the disaster.
An even more important consideration is that when a disaster strikes many businesses are eager to volunteer and assist those in need. They want to help rebuild the damaged homes and businesses, and they often donate the necessary materials and manpower to do so. Unfortunately, the resources that are brought in on a volunteer and donation basis typically run out much sooner than expected. And very often, those businesses who gladly gave their time and resources to those in need feel guilty charging for additional services, so they pack up and leave the area, proud of their good deed, yet leaving those in the disaster area with few recovery options. Sadly, those in need of the recovery services don’t want the volunteers to leave and would gladly pay their normal fee have them stay and finish the disaster recovery efforts.
Providing service during the disaster response and recovery thus comes in four flavors:
- Volunteer / Donation
- Free to Fee
- Discounted Fee for Service
- Full Fee for Service.
- Volunteer / Donation. In this scenario you volunteer your time and donate your products or services. You cover all your own costs and accept nothing in return, other than perhaps food and lodging. In return for your time and materials, you get the warm fuzzy feeling of doing something good for the community. You become an everyday hero. If you’re visible during this time, you also get great publicity, which could lead to business down the road from those who remember your good deed.
- Free to Fee. In this scenario, you come into the community as a volunteer, covering your own costs for a predetermined and pre-disclosed period of time. Upon exhausting your volunteer budget, the community has the option of hiring you continue your efforts on their behalf. If the community opts not to hire you, you go home knowing that you have done your good deed. If they opt to hire you, you stay on and earn a fair price for your work. Everyone wins.
- Discounted Services. This is the most common scenario, and just as the name implies, it means that you offer your products and/or services to the community at a discounted rate. Those who opt to go this route figure out how low they can price something without the decision being a burden on the business. Realize, though, that no one in the community asked for the discount (although none will turn the discount down either). Often, the business owner gives the discount because he or she has some level of altruism.
- Full Price. In this scenario, you come into the community and bid a fair market price for a product or service, roughly equivalent to what other companies would charge during non-disaster times. And because it’s fair market price, people are more than happy to pay it. This is completely moral and ethical. Unfortunately, few businesses make the transition to full fare after starting out as a volunteer. But if you really want to grow your business and profit from disaster, this is the way to go.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, monument builders will be called upon not only for the restoration of grave markers and other monuments of significance within the community, but also to commemorate the event and the everyday heroes that rebuilt, restored and resurrected the community. Rest assured that those who served in time of need are most remembered at this time as well. Your service to your community is your best resume and your best proposal to erect the monument celebrating those who, like you, served the community in its time of need. This business not only provides the capstone to your own business recovery, but the capstone for your communities’ recovery. There is no greater monument.