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Listen in for Tips for Disaster Prep at Your Facility

Friends of the podcast Bob and Tony are back with Brian to talk about the best ways to get organized for hurricane and general disaster preparedness, including creating a plan, documentation and more. 

In Episode 80, you’ll also learn about: 

  • Where to start with disaster preparedness 

  • Have a plan, know who needs to be involved, have a communications plan  

  • Understanding your role in different situations (knowing who is in charge) 

  • Various phases of disaster prep and response  

  • How your insurance carrier can help you with disaster prep 

  • Testing your plan with a dry run  

  • Know what is needed for documentation and assign one person to this area 

  • How often you should evaluate your plan 

  • What equipment you can have ready for response 



Welcome to the Operate Intelligently Podcast. I'm Brian McDonald here at Dude Solutions. Today, I have two old friends that are familiar voices to listeners of the podcast, Bob Bitner and Tony Butler, coming back to talk about hurricane preparedness. 

Gentlemen, welcome. 

It's good to be here today. Good to be here. Thanks for having us. 

So we're in the beginning of hurricane season June through November. And being in North Carolina, we're familiar with hurricanes. We get our fair share of them. So Bob, I want to ask you, you know, what, where do you start with like hurricane preparedness? 

Okay. Well, I think, you know, it's not just hurricanes. There's lots of kinds of different events that can happen to an organization. And so when you say, are you prepared? Are you prepared for what and you're never going to get it right the first time or the second time or the third time, but there are some basic things that you should do to be prepared.

Have a plan, know who you're going to involve know who needs to be involved, have a communication plan out to the organization and people that are affected by that organization. You know, if it's a school system, and there's an event, how do you communicate to the community? How do you communicate to parents and and students and so forth? So there's a great deal of preparation that needs to be done that is germane across any kind of a disaster that might happen be it a fire, a hurricane or a tornado, things that you might have time to prepare for. And some things you just don't have. They just come up automatically. And then for clarity, I know you said you might not actually get it right. But that's because the unexpected happens during these events, right? We never know what is going to happen in a hurricane and a fire and earthquake. Yeah, you don't know you don't know exactly how you're going to be affected by it. 

But there are some certain basic things as we talked about in communication, who you're going to call, you know, it's the old Ghostbuster's kind of thing. Who you gonna call. Who are you gonna ask for help from. Who do you need to respond to, etc. And a lot of times when major events happen, the disaster is taken out of your hands. For instance, if it's a major fire, and you're the facility manager or director, you're not the one that's in charge. It's the fire chief that shows up there, you step back and you take a secondary role. You provide things for this person who is in charge if it's a major disaster, and a lot of times when when we have storm damage, then you are in charge. How are you going to do that and making sure that people respond, are properly trained and prepared and, you know, a lot of times when there's disasters, volunteers like to come out of the woodwork. 

I know personally, I've responded to too many hurricanes and tornado situations and have been prepared. But a lot of times people will come and they want to help. They want to get involved, but they haven't been trained. And so you don't want somebody to get hurt responding to something. 

Well, also, you know, you mentioned you might take a secondary role particularly. In one instance, and then another, you're actually going to be leading the charge. And I think part of being prepared is knowing who is in charge when that event is over with, right, because it eliminates confusion, and then we can start moving forward immediately. 

There's several phases to this, right. So let's say it's hurricane season, which we know and there's one predicted. And the weather forecasters almost never get it right. But we get prepared, right? They don't, they don't really determine the track that's determined by the wind force and everything else. But they do predict and we might know that we're potentially in that track. And so we have time to prepare for something like that.

So we communicate out. We let people know we've had our maintenance staff trained that hey we need to have checked rooms and we need to have checked drain each and all the things we need to have doors and windows protected and clothes etc. And then there's the automatic it just comes up out of nowhere kind of event like a tornado.

And it comes through and again you may touch down here might jump a house and hit your building and hit your school or hit your hospital and then jump over and what do you do and so being prepared for that ahead of time and knowing who and and how to respond. So you want to be prepared on the front end, and I always suggest that you have a plan put together and if you don't know where to start with that there are a lot of organizations out there that will help you. Your insurance carrier will be glad to come in and set out and say hey we want to put help you put your plan together. 

Here's the thing is because what they're interested in is mitigating the financial loss and helping you put those things together. There are organizations like FEMA that will come in and say, here are the things that you ought to consider. There's things like OSHA, although they're more aligned with worker safety. They also have some great information about volunteer safety and having people properly trained, and then get a plan in place, get it written down, get it documented, and then bring the team together and do a dry run. And again, you're not going to get it right, because you don't know what you're predicting for but at least do a dry run. What if this happens? How are we going to respond who we got to respond to? 

One of the things, too, I'll mention, Bob, is you talked about OSHA, you talked about FEMA, you talked about the insurance company, any of those organizations that you end up working with that will probably go back to once this event is happen, there's going to be certain documentation requirements that they're going to have and while you're talking to them. I just want to make a point to say you should definitely understand what they require in terms of documentation ahead of time. So you can be prepared to document things appropriately when they've been happens. Because otherwise you could find yourself in a second disaster, right? And taking a lot more time to possibly get those insurance check back. 

Exactly. And I'll give you a case in point when I was with Wake County Public Schools, and we had tornado come through touchdown and did a lot of damage at about 16 of our campuses. And FEMA came in and was reimbursing us for a bunch of work that had been done. One of the things that we didn't know is when they carried when we had had contractors take off trees and stumps and limbs and all that kind of stuff off our campus trash. It was on our campus and took it to the dump. 

We had numbers of truckloads what FEMA was reimbursing for was the number of tons of stuff. It would have been very easy on the front end to just set you need to be weighed. Give us a ton each of what you have on your truck. End of story. In retrospect, we had to go back through, we had to have some truckers come in, load it up, estimate what that weight was and then calculate it out over all of that. And so we just can't stress enough it's kind of tendency just to emergency respond just to kind of do stuff but one of the things that I always like to suggest is you have a person that during an event is responsible for documentation, making sure work orders are open, making sure people are using work orders applying time to it. For instance, even volunteer time can be reimbursed for some insurance claims and from FEMA. All that work that was done you can get a reimbursement for those dollars was even volunteers but you have to have that documented. 

Yeah, I know I've talked to a lot of folks after the fact they needed to help to figure out again, what they should document and if what tools they should be using the document it right because they have been happened and they did not have those things in place. And because of it, put them in a bad position and made them vulnerable. And of course, I've even talked to say some parishes years as a parish, for those in Louisiana. It was years after Hurricane Katrina had come through, they were still trying to work with FEMA to get reimbursed for damage to their infrastructure, and because they not properly documented prior to, and even after the event that they still had not been reimbursed, right. 

Yeah, and I think that's a great tip of going to the agencies to kind of see what their requirements are, because then, you know, depending on what your your system is, can build out custom reports or something that's specific to them, and you're not having to deal with it at a time where there's other activities going on dealing with the aftermath of the event. Also, I wanted to ask you guys, Bob you put out a good point about you know having that first run through and so it's kind of like a fire drill when we're growing up so we're all prepared or at least know what to do in case of emergency, but you know how often should you go back and kind of revisit that and not only say the run through but also your plan? 

Well I think no less than once a year to do have a sit down should you look at the plan and say is it still applicable and let's run through it people change all the time and people's roles change all the time and people's responsibilities change all the time so there's new players that come in and it could be a key player in that role so annually you at least should do it. I think it's always a good idea particularly when at the at the beginning of the summer when we know we have a vulnerability for storms, particularly here in North Carolina different parts of the country different things you know in in California, for instance, with fire season. Golly, it seems like it's all year long anymore huge fires on the west coast in the Midwest tornadoes you know early early in the year, but just things to be to do it at least once a year and at least to keep your your documentation up on who is on the team and current phone numbers people turn change your phone numbers cell phones today are so prevalent and smartphones that that's how we communicate now and so we need to really look at and understand all those communication tools. But I would say at least once a year. 

And to reemphasize, Bob you mentioned as as people change roles or their numbers change as they move into maybe a different part of the organization that's something you should stay on top of right as people moving you should be updating your documentation throughout the entire year. I wouldn't wait once a year to write one of the other things that I have done in my organizations in the past is having equipment ready specifically set aside for response. 

We had a trailer that we had backup generators. We had chainsaws. We had water on it. We had shovels and rakes and and ladders, and we had rope. And we had all unnecessary emergency response things that we could just took to it and go to an event should we need to in a moment and I would just caution people it's very tempting from time to time to say well there's change house out in the emergency trailer go out and get those and then all of a sudden you know they've been used they're not sharp they're out of fuel they didn't get put back to keep that trailer kind of a sacred sacred trailer just for that and again you know, things like water things like gas that you need to to take out and it'll go bad over time that you want to make sure that quarterly you're looking at that trailer and seeing that things are still on date, everything's still in good working order generators will start chain saws will start, etc. 

Well, I would say you don't want to have to chase those things down after the event, because I think minutes could mean lives. Yeah. And, you know, they're going to be people who possibly are maybe trapped. You know, there. You mentioned earlier people potentially not being trained. And again, I think if we're unprepared, it turns out they could cost us lives. Right? And that's ultimately that's the largest price we could pay. So if we can be prepared and save lives, that's really the point of this. Yep. Yeah. 

And I think that's a great time that you can kind of revisit the plan, at least at exactly at a certain level to go out there and do the preventive maintenance and check and make sure everything is up and running. We've talked a lot about the documentation that's required and how important it is because, you know, it's going to get tied back to the cost and reimbursement so I wonder if you guys could talk a little bit about you know, best practices you've seen, documentation and some of the really important points for for people to consider when preparing the documentation. 

Well, let me just say, first of all that in this reimbursement when we're looking at reimbursement, we're really looking at a cost that a lot of times in a particularly in a public environment, it's the people's money and how we're responsible and we should get as much of that back from insurance carriers and FEMA that we can to benefit our taxpayers or our stakeholders or whomever it is that's financing our organization. But maybe Tony, you can talk a little bit about this. It's not just about being prepared for this event, but it's being prepared every day for good data, you know, having a good inventory of your equipment, knowing what the condition of your equipment is, because those are the kinds of things that they will ask you how much life was left in this piece of equipment. How, how old is it? How much did you pay for it?

Things like that what's the value of it and just having a good inventory first of all of your assets of your property, etc. 

Well, absolutely. These are stories that I've heard over the years. You know the name of the podcast is Operate Intelligently and that really is the epitome of what you're talking about especially when it comes to the people that that we typically work with right people who are maintaining assets facility assets infrastructure FEMA. I know again I've heard the stories where they do want to know life expectancy of the piece of equipment. Do you have the PM records? Can you show us that you maintain it properly? Because if we're going to give you money back for this to replace it, we want to know the condition and shape that it was in. If you haven't properly maintained it, then there's a good chance you're there some money you're not getting back that you might have expected right. If you left all the trash on the roof and the roof drain plugged in, and so forth. In a in the roof collapse because of excess way the water you know you're going to suffer some liability on that, and some personal loss because of that. 

And I like you know, when you answer initially Brian's question, we have to be good stewards of the money, especially in the public arena, right? And so I know just from talking to folks day in and day out that our budgets aren't growing, right, we're not getting more money, we're getting less money, yet we have more responsibility, our our resources are finite. And so making sure that we're documenting properly and properly maintaining those assets is key not only to be good stewards of the money but also when this event happens, we'll be able to get back what we what we should get back because we can prove and show the condition and what we've done as an organization in terms of taking care of those assets. And the interesting thing is if you don't get that money reimbursed to you guess whose budgets that money coming out of. Yeah.

Yeah, right. It's going to come out of my budget is kind of come out of the facility managers budget and you're just going to have to suffer through something else you're gonna have to make that chiller last another season.

You're going to have to do something because you didn't document. It's not a good experience, right? It's not something you want to go through, right? I'll say to, you know, for everyone listening, this isn't about, say, the software that we provide as a company. But any software, it's to your benefit to make sure you have some way to track and document. It doesn't have to be dude solutions, product or platform, any platform out there, but I urge you to find one if you don't have one. You know, I think some of the key things to document are your assets, your buildings and your locations and your equipment. That's their time spent number of hours spent on something. What volunteer hours, pictures are always. The old quote picture's worth 1000 words. It may be 10,000 words or maybe $10,000 right yeah, yeah, you have a picture that backs up what you said both from a precondition and after condition right pictures you've up and you do a PM on a roof.

And you can snap a picture and you say, look here, the roof is clean, the drains are clean, great, great description, you've got a timestamp and you attach that to your work order. Three months later, you have a disaster and say here, look over the past year, we've been up there, and it's back to that roof several times. Here's the condition we left it. And you can tell we are doing good maintenance on this. 

And you mentioned the timestamp. I just want to re emphasize that point, too, because it's important that they know when that picture was taken. Right. It's not something that maybe was taken years and years ago. Yeah, but it is a recent. 

More and more on your smartphones. That happens automatically. If you're using a camera where you need to set the date again, set the d ate properly before you start snapping these pictures. That's where somebody that is responsible for documentation when something happens that they remind people Hey, make sure you're doing this, this and this capturing all this information. So we have it when we get done. 

But I've talked to folks before where they've made it a part of the PM, right? So on their, maybe their annual PM on this particular piece of equipment that's a part of the PM and that's they're updating that asset record in their CMMS. It's kind of hard to measure the roof after the roofs gone, and it'll be a challenge, picking up all the little pieces and putting them back together. 

Yeah, well, those are great tips. And I agree with you. It kind of reminds me of my father walking around the house with the, the old VCR and videotaping everything for the insurance company back in the day and giving a narration with it. But it's definitely a lot better to do it beforehand, because you don't you're not going to have the time and resources to do it afterwards.

I just I just recently did that myself. I downloaded an app on my phone about my house because I'm I'm completely remodeled in my home. And so I wanted to get before and after pictures particularly but i thought you know, this was I'm really starting to practice what I preach all along of having a photo record of the things I have in my house. And while I was going through I thought, you know, I'm going to take some extra pictures of things that are more valuable than other things just so I have that as a record and those pictures are stored in the cloud somewhere and and I have access to them anywhere. And I think that again as a something to consider that where your where your documentation is stored, how it's stored, how easy can you get to it? Can you respond to it in a need? Are you going to have reception Are you going to have connectivity to be able to do what you want to do and and not a lot afternoon after the event?

Well, these are things to that we hope never happened to us, right? But that's what that's what gets in trouble. Yeah, right. Because the unexpected happens and we're unprepared and so just taking the extra effort to get prepared and get these things in order goes a long way especially after the unexpected happens. Yeah.

I would just kind say summarizing this a little bit. Be prepared. Don't be afraid of OSHA, your insurance carrier, your fire marshal, any of those we have. A lot of times we kind of put the guard up. When those kind of people come around. They can be a great asset and a great help to you and invite them in and say, I want to have the best plan I can in place. Help me with that. Help me with my training.

Everybody's dollars are stretched training dollars a lot of times or non existent and these kind of organizations will come in and do it free of charge. So come in and do that. Be prepared, utilize those things, don't be afraid of them. Get online, look at FEMA, look at your insurance carrier look at OSHA, all kinds of things that are available inviting people in and and helping well I'd say that they have a ton of resources and really instead of putting putting your guard up look at them as a business model.

Right, because they can help you if you let them. So and, and just one other point of caution at the end when something happens, and it's not a matter of if but when something happens in your organization, don't feel like you have to put everything yourself and others at risk to resolve something. Take the time to be safe about everything you do, because you don't want to compound that by putting somebody's life at risk by making one disaster, a fatal disaster for somebody else or yourself. And so take the time to be prepared. Take the time when something happens to reflect and use the plan that you have in place. Don't try to reinvent it on the moment. There'll be things that you have, there'll be enough things you have to invent on the moment because you won't get everything right but make sure you work your plan and let people know about that. 

And I think you know this is is so important we've talked about it before on this podcast, but i think it's it's well worth it to remind people that preparation good documentation good help and support good follow up and follow through will make a very uncomfortable situation become more bearable when you need to wrap everything up and resolve and get back to normal operations.

That is some sage wisdom from Papa Bear right there. So Bob and Tony, I want to thank you all very much for coming in and sharing these tips and guidance on emergency I mean, not like you said not just hurricanes but any disaster preparedness. 

Absolutely. Thank you for having thank you for having us. 

And we're going to share links in the show notes to some the materials that we talked about as well as tips to help you get started on your emergency preparedness plan. If you have not done so already and also follow The Dude's social media accounts will be sharing out some info, graphics and other materials to help you in the process and maybe give you some tips and tricks in addition to what we talked about today.

We also want to ask if you are a fan of the Operate Intelligently Podcast, please go out and share it with other facility managers or people that you think might like it. And until next time this is Brian McDonald.

Thank you for listening to the Operate Intelligently Podcast. Subscribe to us wherever you get your podcasts, leave us a review and you can even email us at

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