Conference focuses on crisis plans

Thursday, October 5, 2006

Over 20 representatives from area businesses and organizations attended the crisis preparedness audio conference, hosted by the Barry County Office of Emergency Manage-ment and the Barry County Health Department, on Sept. 28.

"The biggest challenge a community faces after a disaster is the continuation of the business community," said David Compton, Barry County Office of Emergency Management director. "If the business community cannot recover, the community will not have the economic ability to recover from a disaster."

Around 60 percent of businesses are not able to recover after a major disaster, said Compton.

"It is im-portant for us to have a plan to help our business community after the dust settles," said Compton. "The entire community is dependent on the business community being able to get itself up and running after a crisis."

Eric Lesser, an associate partner with IBM's Institute for Business Value, and Michael Littlejohn, IBM Business and Consulting Services vice president and partner, discussed ways to prepare for pandemic flu, hurricanes, wildfires, blizzards and transit strikes.

"It was very informative," said Kathleen King, Barry County Health Department administrator. "The conference focused on human resource issues. We learned how businesses, schools and county government can continue to function even if quite a few of the co-workers are missing."

The audio conference discussed ways to continue core business operation when over 30 percent of the workforce has been affected by a major crisis, said King.

"We learned that we will need to figure out a way for people to work from home, and we will need different means of communi-cating with employees depending on the event," said King.

The audio conference covered human resource topics, including em-ployee safety, communication, payroll, succession in training and trauma.

"I need to look closely at cross training for my staff," said King. "We do a lot of cross training anyway, but some of our employees specialize in specific positions. We need to do more cross training to cover those areas."

"Businesses need to realize that after a crisis, they will be dealing with human beings with emotional concerns," said Compton. "They need to be prepared to meet those needs before they expect their employees to turn up to do their jobs."

The audio conference discussed ways to address employees concerns about their family and ways to make sure employees remain informed about crisis situations, said Compton.

"This audio conference was designed to make people start thinking about things," said King. "It forced them to think about how they can be prepared to carry on their business in the event of a disaster."

Although much of the information presented during the audio conference was designed for large businesses, it can be adapted to small businesses in our area, said King.

"When you have small businesses that are run by families, any crisis is going to impact those businesses," said Compton. "We need to shift the light onto those businesses to put together a plan to help those small businesses continue to operate."

Representatives from St. John's Hospital, Cox Hospital, Silver Dollar City, Fasco, Able 2, the Barry County Health Department and the Barry County Office of Emergency Management attended the audio conference.

"All the evaluations I've received from the event have been positive," said Compton. "They felt it had very good information and was presented in a good format."

The crisis preparedness audio conference utilized an interactive telephone-based audio conference presentation with a locally produced PowerPoint presentation. Compton and King hope to recreate the conference during future seminars.

The Office of Emergency Management and Barry County Health Department will also host a pandemic flu table top discussion at the Monett Community Center at 2 p.m. on Oct. 18.

"We would like to see community members from businesses, chamber of commerces and ministerial alliances at the table top discussion," said Compton.

"Pandemics are as certain as severe weather. While not as frequent, they are inevitable," said Compton. "We need to spend time and effort preparing for these types of disasters."

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