Seminar speakers: Businesses need a disaster plan
By James D. Wolf Jr. Post-Tribune correspondent October 17, 2012 3:56PM
Updated: November 19, 2012 3:14PM
The man who invaded the Valparaiso Prudential office on May 25 and took hostages before shooting himself did not suddenly snap, said Valparaiso Police Sgt. Michael Grennes.
However, the business didn’t always document Roy Ferguson’s increasingly hostile visits or call police, nor did it plan for such problems, Grennes said.
Businesses need to plan for any emergency, man-made or natural, Grennes and Bobbi Petru of the American Red Cross said at an emergency preparedness seminar hosted Wednesday by Indiana Dunes Tourism.
“As we found out this year in Valparaiso, it can happen in our backyard,” Grennes said. “If you don’t talk about this stuff, how are you going to know what to do when it happens?”
Petru said that denial — and perceived lack of time or money — leads to no plans, but as the 2011 Indiana State Fair stage collapse showed, it’s good to have a strategy and people designated to implement it for a variety of situations, such as storms, tornados, fire and hazardous material spills.
She suggested designating safe spots or evacuation routes for employees and guests.
It’s as simple as knowing what to do if a guest has a heart attack, knowing whether you will compensate guests for interrupted service or meals and thinking about suppliers unable to deliver after disasters.
Businesses should encourage employees to have emergency plans so they don’t need to be concerned about family when they can’t get home.
Grennes said people should listen to instinct and not be afraid to call police when something doesn’t seem right. Even if it’s minor, a similar pattern may be happening at other businesses, he said.
Missing children should be reported to the police within 10 minutes because abducted children are usually killed within three hours, and police won’t mind if a child is found before they show — but the business should know who’s responsible for making police calls.
The Red Cross has a website to develop plans at readyrating.org, many insurance companies have planning and both will review plans, Petru said.
Also, county agencies will work with businesses to coordinate plans, and since 9/11, agencies work together more often.
“It doesn’t matter what it is, you just need a plan,” she said. “That plan needs to be written. Your guests need to know what it is.”