Thursday, March 24, 2011

Is your Business REALLY disaster ready??

The last month has shown many people in both Christchurch  a whole new perspective of what being prepared for a disaster can mean. There is a lot of information out there on having emergency kits ready at home and plans for handling yourself and you family in the immediate days after a disaster.
Yet something that is causing a huge amount of stress, hassle and frustration for many in Christchurch is the impact this disaster is having on businesses.

On the 22nd of February 2011 at 12.51pm everything stopped, 4 weeks later coffee cups still sit on tables in Cashel Mall, food still sits on shop shelves, lap tops and computers lay open, books and files left in place, cars remain parked in parking buildings, luggage still sits in hotel rooms, cash registers still open and handbags sit in Cafes. It is like time stopped as people fled the buildings they had been in when the 6.3 quake struck.

The people who fled these buildings were the customers, tourists, staff and the Business Owners. Most of the tourists have gone home, the customers went home, the staff have no job and the business owners have no access. This is an incredibly damaging situation for a business owner to be in.

There is increasing rage and frustration from the business owners as they wait for the green light to reenter their business premises and contents. There is no money coming in to those businesses, yet suppliers still send invoices and some customers still query for services and product. It is a disaster driven sense of limbo. In Christchurch these businesses are not limited to just the CBD, but many suburban businesses are effected as well.

 Now business owners are blaming the powers that be for ruining their potential to reopen and salvage their businesses. Buildings have been demolished without business owners having the opportunity to reclaim contents, blame is being laid on the powers that be as well. However the true demon in this situation was a natural disaster a devastating earthquake, and measures need to be taken to ensure the future safety of our city and its citizens and visitors.

A natural disaster like and Earthquake, is a mean evil bastard that creeps up on you with no warning and kills indiscriminately. This immediate impact is shocking and destructive, but the longer term effect is what we all need to prepare for.

As a business owner I have made it my responsibility to ensure that if my office were to be inaccessible for any reason I could get myself up and running again with the minimum of inconvenience to myself, staff and customers. By doing so I have worked to protect a valuable asset, my business, however nothing though can prepare or protect anyone from the shock and disbelief that will be part of the process.

These are some of the things I have done:

* INSURANCE - A business must have insurance, this is not a luxury this is essential and not negotiable. Insure your business  premises, stock, assets, business interruption, income protection, equipment. Have it covered or risk losing it. If you cannot afford to insure your business you cannot afford to be in business.

* BACK UP DATA - I use a service in Christchurch NEXUS this is an offsite back up of all my electronic data. If I lose my computers or they get damaged the information is only a phone call away. I have called on this once when my laptop hard drive crashed. It was no hassle and worth he investment.

* CLOUD COMPUTING - Store information in the "cloud", let others know where it is so if you were not available someone else can access it and get things up and running. I use this for simple but important things like a database of who my insurance is with, current customer list, supplier list, how to contact nexus etc. That way someone in another country could begin actioning things for me if I was incapacitated.

These are just three simple, effective and essential business disaster recovery items that everyone should be doing. If you have not got a Disaster Recovery Plan in place for your business, then make it number one on your to-do list. Get onto it because you could need it anytime, yet I sincerely hope you never need it.

Always remember though that lives and people are far more valuable than buildings and contents. Buildings and Contents can be rebuilt and replaced, however lives can never be replaced and the hole left by the loss of a person is far greater that that of losing material things. So prepare for the risk now so that you will not feel the need to take risks when it is too late.

Friday, March 18, 2011

What feels right for you?

Today here in Christchurch we have a public holiday and a National Memorial service. This is an event I have chosen not to attend. This is a conscious decision as I personally still have a Funeral to attend, and so many families are still awaiting the return of loved ones lost. So a little too soon to sit in the sun and "Bring a Picnic" as our Mayor suggested (inappropriate in my view).
Instead I have chosen to spend some time with my kids, as my husband is still working 90 hour weeks since the earthquake, he will come home early, exhausted and head to bed for a much needed nap.
What today also highlights to me is that we all need to listen to our own intuition and feelings, do what feels right for us, do things in our own time, if and when we can.

*My daughter is spending tonight with her dear friend who has lost both her Grandparents in the Earthquake, that feels right!
*I am sitting quietly working away, that feels right!
*My son chose not to go away with a friend for the weekend, that feels right!
*We picked tomatoes from our garden and the boys delivered them to neighbors, that feels right!
*Pete and I finally closely inspected the outside of our home for damage (and found some), that feels right!
*Pete is now tucked in bed in the afternoon napping, that feels right!

So take time where ever you are and whatever you are doing to ensure that what you are doing feels right. Not for others, but for you!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Everyone is a Expert????

One thing that is becoming obvious after the events of the past 3 weeks both here and in Japan, is that everyone suddenly becomes an expert.
I have been overwhelmed by blog posts and emails advising me how to be prepared for a disaster. It kind of reminds me of when I was pregnant, everyone had advice and knew what was best for me, I listened politely and then discarded the crap and paid attention to what seemed like good advice.
I am considering working on a new book, I think I will call it:


this would be my own personal compilation of all the useful advice, information and support that has helped me since I found myself living in a disaster zone:
A few tidbits would include:

* Follow your own instincts.
* Look after yourself and family first
* A special chapter on how to make your own long drop toilet
* Just how much water is enough to have stock piled before a disaster.
* What is the best performing perfume and deodorant when you cannot shower or wash clothes?  My personal choice (JO MALONE)
* How to cook in an oven that seems to have only one temperature - super high hot.
* Where to place torches throughout your home for those dark long, nights.
* A plumber can take 2 weeks to check your leaking Hot Water Cylinder, however tell them you have raw sewer seeping from your pipes and they get there in 2 hours.
* People from out of town will try and poach your staff, take away business and tell you how sorry they are that we are having a hard time. All the while making it worse.
* As my husband says everyday "HUGS ARE FREE SO HUG FREELY"
* If you were not there when the disaster happened you DO NOT get it, DO NOT understand, and DO NOT know how we feel. So do not try and tell people you do.
* Never ever compare natural disasters, no one is worse than another! BECAUSE For the people who are in the middle of a situation regardless of where they are or what the disaster is, it is the WORST thing that will ever happen to THEM in THEIR lives.
* Know that if you have been effected by a NATURAL disaster then it is tragic, scary and energy sapping. However the reality is there is nothing you can do to stop them happening, so live each and everyday with gusto and one at a time.

Sure there is a huge amount of practical advice out there:
* Have an emergency kit
* Keep you mobile charged and with you
* Sleep with shoes beside the bed

But the reality is the challenges may come from the most unexpected place and situations. So be prepared to make decisions and actions based on not having the things and resources we regularly take for granted and assume will be available to us.
So regardless of how prepared we are some Disasters come with no warning or advise, and  not have a lead time and preparation time so you may not be near your emergency kit and you will need to improvise.

So back to the fist tidbit - "Follow your own instincts" trust your gut and do what needs to be done when it needs to be done. Do not ask permission or wait for others to take the lead, do what you need to do when you need to do it, survival is key.

Once the dust has settled and the reality of the situation starts to sink in then you will be heartened to find a community that will come together and do what needs to be done. Be part of that community and build a new strength together.

So yep I guess I too have "become and expert" by writing this post, so you can read it and throw out the crap and take to heart the information that you find useful, and I hope that one day you never need to use it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Getting organised in the "NEW" Normal.

Wow a lot has happened since my last post, and things have changed considerably in my little part of the world.
Here in Christchurch, we are beginning to realise we are living with a new normal. A place where things that once mattered no longer do, places we used to visit no longer exist and people we know are no longer with us.
This new normal is cruel and surreal.
Impossible to describe, but difficult to ignore.
Things have changed, they changed a bit on 4th September 2010, when we had the 7.1 Magnitude Quake. Little did we know that that was a dress rehearsal for what was to be a destructive and devastating 6.3 magnitude quake.
You hear comparisons between ours and other quakes. I have even heard it said "It was only 6.3....", what is not said is that it was centered less than 5 km's from the city at a depth of only 5km. It was short, sharp and immensely violent.
One of the places I found myself helping on 22/2/11
I was in my car when it struck, and awnings of shops were at eye level for me as my car bucked up and the pavements went down, pedestrians were knocked off their feet and buildings collapsed indiscriminately ending lives and destroying futures.
That day my 15 years of previously working as an Emergency Room RN came back to me like I had never left the profession. I like many in Christchurch wore the blood of others and witnessed the passing of many. Somethings can be washed off others can never be erased.
I am not an RN anymore, I am a Professional Organiser, and I am wondering whether that is important anymore. I have had days where I think my business is the whimsy of a bored mother and housewife, and maybe I should throw it all in and become a coffee Mum.
Yet this past weekend I went up into the mountains with my family, we had some much needed time away from the new normal. I had time to lay in the grass and think. What struck me was that this new normal is an amazing and rarely experience opportunity to really make a difference.
We have a city that needs to be rebuilt, we have lives that need to be healed and we have businesses that need to be helped and nurtured back into success. Who better to be part of this than a Professional Organiser.
So many are beginning with a clean slate, so why not begin with a successfully productive and organised future in mind. This is what I now know, this is my business, my profession, my expertise and I am damn good at it. This is the perfect time for businesses to invest in a lean, productive and profitable future move forward in a constructive and engaged way that can only bring a positive impact the the new normal.
I now know that my business is not a whim, but a valuable, motivating, inspired and aspirational service that can help many cope and grow in this new normal that is Christchurch. The lessons we are learning every day will be invaluable to share on a global scale as time moves forward and I for one am going to be there and stand proud in this new normal.
A new dawn in the NEW normal