As the 90-mile per hour winds of Hurricane Sandy dissipated over northern Canada, the true extent of the devastation was heartbreaking to see and to learn about. As a father and husband and also a specialist in emergency preparedness planning, it was painful to hear about the consequences of enormous decisions that individuals and parents found themselves having to make under life-threatening circumstances.
- Loved ones in harm’s way unable to communicate with one another via cellphone as the hurricane approached.
- Parents with very young children in a car confronted with rapidly rising water and the need to make critical decisions with only minutes to spare.
- Families that stayed behind when their neighbors left – and paid the ultimate price.
I spend several hundred hours every year helping families – and, in different ways, corporations – prevent these terrible situations by preparing in advance. We work very closely with senior executives and affluent families to anticipate crises – such as a weather event like Sandy, a travel- related incident, stalking and domestic violence, home intrusion or a medical family emergency for a family member – and put planning in place ahead of time in order mitigate risks and save lives. We talk about establishing an off-site relocation point or an on-site “safe room.” Setting a universal “call in” number. Placing GPS devices in luggage. Securing shelter-in-place and emergency medical capabilities. And installing duress alarms in strategic locations, among many other strategies and tactics. Every family is different. Every environment carries a different set of risks. Every executive or individual makes different choices with respect to the key planning drivers: convenience, probability, cost and risk. The best way to capture all this planning for so many different potential scenarios is to develop a Family Emergency Plan. That’s the lesson I hope many families draw from Hurricane Sandy.