By Kim Smiley
The deadly shooting at the Washington Navy Yard this week hit especially close to home. I live about 15 miles away from the Navy Yard and I also worked there for 5 years. And my husband, a Navy civilian, still does.
As far as the thousands impacted by the shootings, my family was very lucky. My spouse came home safely while others did not. Additionally, we hit the jackpot from a logistics stand point because he was in his office (which is not in the affected building) when the order to shelter in place was issued. He had access to his phone and internet (as well as a bathroom and his packed lunch). I had word almost immediately that he was safe and was able to communicate with him throughout the day. When word came that he could go home but his car couldn’t, we were able to coordinate and get him home as quickly as possible.
Like many people across the country, I was riveted by the news and was holding my breath as the information fluctuated by the hour. At ThinkReliability, we are generally called in to help investigate or document information after an incident so the opportunity to watch an incident as it plays out in real time is fairly rare. I was throwing together a makeshift family emergency response as I was bombarded with calls and messages from concerned friends and family as well as trying to figure when and how my husband would get home. And for somebody who works on processes and solutions for a living, my personal emergency response wasn’t very impressive. Take my word for it: the ideal time to discover your mother in-law has your old cell phone number isn’t when your husband’s place of employment just made national headlines.
A time like this is an excellent opportunity to review both your organization and family’s emergency response plan. Is your organization ready to handle a shelter-in-place situation? Do you know which authorities to contact in case of emergencies? And, one piece that I think is often overlooked: how you would handle the flow of information? How do you pass word to families if something significant occurs and do people know where to look for the information? Would you post the information on the website? Would an old-fashioned phone tree serve your needs? Do you have updated contact information and home phone numbers?
It’s also important to have a basic plan in place for your family in case something unforeseen happens. There was a flurry of activity on Monday as everyone worked to make sure that there was a plan for all the children of the people we knew on the Navy Yard to be picked up and potentially kept overnight. Thousands of people work on the Navy Yard and there were several cases were a single parent or both parents were stuck on lock-down for an indeterminate amount of time. Are you really ready to handle a situation like that? If your family or employees have any special needs, like requiring medication, I would recommend making a plan to deal with it. I also highly recommend taking a moment to make sure that any list with people allowed to pick up your children is up to date and includes a few folks who do not work in your building or even on the same side of town. Fairly simple precautions can make a tough situation go much smoother.
And don’t think you don’t need a basic plan if you have no dependents. Do you know how you would get home if you suddenly had to leave your car at work like many of the Navy Yard employees did? What if your wallet was left behind in a rushed evacuation? It might be a good idea to have enough money to cover cab fare in your car or in your badge holder if you wear one to work. How do you pass word to your parents that you’re okay, especially if you don’t have access to a phone? Would your mom think to check her email? Do you have a friend who has your parents’ or siblings’ phone numbers and could call them for you if they aren’t comfortable with social media or computers? Trust me; your families would be very interested in hearing that you’re okay.
I hope you never experience any crisis even remotely close to the tragedy at the Navy Yard. But if there is ever an emergency, you’ll be grateful if you made a plan beforehand.