The drop in the stock market after the capital evacuations was NOT inevitable.
The recent evacuations in the nation’s capital resulted in a business and stock market panic that many “experts” have called both unpredictable and unavoidable. These “experts” are wrong. To avoid being part of that statistic, plan ahead and be disaster ready. Each letter in the mnemonic, D.I.S.A.S.T.E.R. R.E.A.D.Y., stands for a key item in your disaster preparation checklist.
Go through each letter and take the necessary action. While this is not something you will complete in an hour, you do need to start now—long before any disaster. When you can check all these items off your list, you will be as prepared as possible for any disaster that may come your way and your business will survive.
Let’s start with D.I.S.A.S.T.E.R.:
D is Detect
Detect your own vulnerabilities and those of your community. You have geographic vulnerabilities and competitive vulnerabilities. You also have emotional vulnerabilities. The stock market dropped after the capital sirens sounded because those making the trades failed to detect their own fear of terrorist attack. If you identify your fear and prepare to respond calmly and effectively, you now have a competitive advantage.
Detect your community’s needs too. Consider how your business can help. If so, you’ve just detected a unique advantage you can offer to the community in the event of an emergency.
I is Incident Command
Every community has one person in command in case of a disaster. That person, the “incident commander,” has a set of responsibilities to delegate that filters down through an established structure. Find out who is in that incident command position now and ask how you could help become a part of that structure. If you wait until disaster strikes, your offers of help may be too late. Do it now. The use of the Incident Command model also helps prevent “panic selling” by filtering all decisions through one person.
S is Safety
Know where your safety vulnerabilities are. Will the potential terrorist attack directly affect you or your place of business? If you were to lose power or cellular phone service, how will that affect your business? Be prepared. If you own stock, you will feel vulnerable. But are you? Ask yourself, would a successful attack really affect the stock price in the long term.
A is Assess
Assess your situation—either your current one or the potential one during a disaster. If keeping your business open is not safe, or if your employees have urgent personal or family needs during a crisis, you need to take responsibility for that and be realistic. Assess whether it is safe to continue to be open and ask yourself if your employees have needs that are outside of the business. If so, make allowances for those. You don’t have to stay open 24/7 or put yourself or your employees at risk. Letting your employees know that their personal needs are important will gain you their trust and loyalty. Track the effect the event has had on your portfolio and the companies in which you invest.
S is Support
Support works both ways. The easiest way to get support during an emergency situation is to give it as part of the support team. All emergency response managers are taught to reach in their community and make pre-arrangements for the resources they need. These are called mutual aid agreements. Approach the emergency response manager and say, “I can provide you the following things. Will that be of help?” You will most likely get a yes, especially if you do this ahead of time. You will be written into the county’s plan. Be prepared to deliver whatever you promise. An advantage to you is that when you have a need, you are already known to the people with the power. And since you’ve already detected what kind of support you’ll need, you can ask for it in advance.
T is Triage
Triage means to do the most good for the most people with limited resources. Even if you’ve been the best person and the most helpful to your community, if your needs are minor you will have to wait longer than someone whose needs are greater. The person with the greatest need will get help first—no matter when they ask. Adopt the same principle with your business resources. If you own stock, see how the businesses they represent have been effect by the completed attack. Once you have made this analysis, repeat your standard due diligence for each stock. Then and only then will you know what to keep, what to buy and what to sell. Even though it may be a hard decision to make, you are really benefiting your portfolio.
E is Evacuate
If you are called to evacuate, go. Orders to evacuate usually come in stages. When they tell the group you belong to that it’s time to evacuate, heed the warning—it’s unsafe to stay. Rest assured that businesses that are prepared and forced to evacuate in most cases will reopen when it’s safe to do so.
R is for Recovery
Recovery begins with your disaster planning—long before the event occurs. Deal with your fear, get counseling, do what it takes to recover.
And now for R.E.A.D.Y:
R is for Rely
Now that you’ve been through the disaster plan, you need to be ready within your own business. What do you rely on? What do the companies in your portfolio rely on? Are there key employees or key procedures that only exist in employees’ heads? Write them down now. You and the companies you invest in must keep a copy at business and another off-site at a safe location. Those processes are important. Are you heavily invested in a particular business, geographic area or business sector?
E is for Educate
If you become part of your community response, you will need to know how to access people and how they can access you. How are they going to identify themselves? How do you collect payment? Cash or a trust system? Develop a written procedure. Make sure your staff knows exactly what they should do. They’ll take comfort in knowing what procedures to follow in the event of an emergency. Do the companies in your portfolio have a written plan? Learn what that plan entails.
A is for Appreciate
Appreciate your employees every day. Not only will you experience a more pleasant workplace, but in a time of crisis your employees will pay you back with their loyalty. In the face of a disaster, continue to appreciate your employees—particularly the ones who came back. But still appreciate the ones who couldn’t come back. Some people will have more pressing personal responsibilities than others. Find out if the companies you invest in appreciate their employees’ efforts.
D is for Drill
You have dry runs of your disaster plan. Just as you have a routine procedure for a fire drill, the companies you invest in should perform disaster drills. If they don’t, panic will set in and their mind will shut down and your portfolio will suffer. When the mind shuts down, people revert to what is familiar—the day-to-day routine they’ve always done—not what they should be doing in a disaster. The companies in your portfolio must dedicate themselves to the entire process and drill.
Y is for You
For businesses, it comes down to you—each individual and each employer. Take responsibility for all your actions and your investments. Don’t be part of the selling panic. Plan ahead and be part of the recovery solution.
Nothing you do can prevent a natural disaster. The best chance you have for business survival is to become “D.I.S.A.S.T.E.R. R.E.A.D.Y.” Plan ahead. Identify your strengths and weaknesses. If the worst happens, don’t panic. You already know the drill and what is expected of you. Don’t let your business be one that boards up its doors and never reopens. Be the business the community can turn to for support, and they will remember you long after the crisis, ensuring your business will be around for years to come.