Red Cross offers disaster training to organizationsIf a disaster strikes their office, North Dakota Farmers Union employees hope to be more prepared, through participation in a new program for businesses and organizations from the American Red Cross.
By: Kari Lucin, The Jamestown Sun
If a disaster strikes their office, North Dakota Farmers Union employees hope to be more prepared, through participation in a new program for businesses and organizations from the American Red Cross.
The farm organization was the first in the Jamestown community to participate in the Red Cross Ready Rating program, which helps small and large businesses prepare for emergencies and disasters.
“It helps guide people and it gives them wonderful tools (for emergency preparedness),” said Beth Dewald, executive director for the Buffalo Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross. “You’re not alone or starting from scratch.”
The Ready Rating program allows a company or organization to assess its readiness level for emergencies with an electronic questionnaire, and then offers customized resources for making improvements. A company can then coordinate with the local Red Cross to improve its readiness.
NDFU had worked on emergency response projects in the past, and some of its employees have trained in first aid and CPR, so it was a natural fit for participation in the Ready Rating program, Dewald said.
Up to 40 percent of businesses fail in the wake of a natural or human-caused disaster, Dewald said, sometimes because they have no plan, they don’t have the economic means to recover or because they themselves or their customers have been affected by the disaster.
The Ready Rating program is free for businesses, and is intended to help protect people’s lives and property and also establish a continuity of operations plan for business. That way, the business can keep going after a disaster, even if it means relocating or staff temporarily working at home.
NDFU began working with Ready Rating in earnest in spring, when its six-person Red Cross Ready Committee started meeting.
Committee members decided to work on fire and tornado preparation first, and have since worked out where people should go in the case of a tornado, and where they should meet outside during a fire to do head counts.
On Tuesday, everyone in the NDFU workforce met for 45 minutes and received maps of the building, learned about the company’s emergency preparedness kits and practiced using fire extinguishers, said Pam Burkhardt, general manager of Farmers Union Insurance Co.
They also went over tornado and fire policies during that meeting, which was kept brief.
“We wanted to keep people’s attention,” Burkhardt said. “Things are obviously busy.”
The Ready Rating program is a long-term one, and NDFU will continue to work on it in the future. Plans still have to be fleshed out for power outages and blizzards, and other types of disasters, for example.
“We’re moving on next to trying to talk about what would happen if we need to relocate,” Burkhardt said.
NDFU faces several unique challenges because it sells insurance, and in the event of a disaster people would likely be calling the business for help.
In addition, the NDFU building includes a large meeting room sometimes used for conventions, so any disaster planning needs to include provisions for more than 500 people — not just the 55 or so employees in the building at any given time.
“We’re also working with staff and their families,” Dewald said, and encouraging them to build their own safety and emergency kits at home.
“(We need) to keep our business up and running, not only for ourselves, but for our customers,” Burkhardt said.
For more information on the Red Cross Ready Rating program, visit readyrat ing.org.
Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at 701-952-8453
or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org