Most businessmen are so busy coping with immediate and piecemeal matters that there is a lamentable tendency to let the future take care of itself. We often are so busy putting out fires, so to speak, that we find it difficult to do the planning that would prevent those fires from occurring in the first place. As a prominent educator has expressed it, Americans generally spend so much time on things that are urgent that we have none left to spend on those that are important (Gustav Metzman).

Someone broke into the HARDI office in Columbus a couple of months ago and stole several new computers and petty cash. After 50 years without a single incident, it came as quite a shock to all of the staff. It was not too big a deal — insurance covered the loss — and aside from many anxious moments about lost data and possible vulnerable information, we were able to recover very quickly. It would have been easy to chalk it up to “just one of those things” and move on, but it was more serious than just a violation of privacy. We were vulnerable, and I had really never thought much about it. Sure, I had passing thoughts about the “what-ifs,” but without an incident, that's all they were.

As an Association, we are always considering contingencies for our large meetings and conferences but fail to consider the day-to-day work environment. I wonder why it is with all the exposure we get from the media on disasters, we do not all take the time to plan. Are we calloused by adversity-laden news, limited on time or, the worst-case scenario, don't believe it will ever happen to us?

There are many resources available to make disaster planning easier that account for more than natural disasters, terrorist attacks or epidemics. It could be an employee health emergency, a power outage or anything that prevents your business from operating as normal and breaks contact with employees and customers.

I highly recommend an excellent planning source found at www.ready.gov. It is concise and details disaster preparedness issues for any size business. In my opinion, it is the most efficient plan to implement whether you are doing it for one or 50 locations. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security created the site and divided it into sections targeted at businesses and families. The business segment looks at preparedness from the perspective of “Planning to Stay in Business,” “Talking to Your Employees” and “Protecting Your Investment.” In addition to descriptive information, the site provides a detailed sample emergency plan to deal with virtually any natural or man-made disaster.

At HARDI headquarters, we set a task force to work on planning based on this source, and I was amazed at the interest generated by all involved and the detailed plans that were developed in a very short time. It ended up not only being about business planning, but extended to planning initiatives undertaken by employees for their own families. I found that all of us want to be prepared, but we need a bit of prodding to do so.

A distributor who went through Hurricane Katrina related the importance of practicing the plan once you complete it and working out any unforeseen problems. They found that although they had a great plan, it was stored with other files in a building that authorities would not allow them to access for a long period after the hurricane.

Preparedness is really about giving everyone the confidence to handle virtually any situation in a calm and confident manner.