Julie Perrine, Founder and CEO, All Things Admin
Over the past few weeks, you’ve heard stories about the disasters my team members have faced. Now, I’d like to share a few of my experiences from the 2008 Iowa floods when my husband and I lived in Cedar Rapids.
I used to share office space with one of my clients in downtown Cedar Rapids. During the flood, our eight-story building was surrounded by water, and the water was 10 feet deep on the first floor of the building.
This was the case for countless companies in my city. Until you’ve experienced a natural disaster like this, you have no idea just how important and valuable documented procedures, contact lists, emergency contact numbers, client information, and vendor information can be. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Don’t wait for someone to give you a copy of your company’s disaster procedures. Create some if you don’t already have them. If your company does have some in place, get a copy of them so you can review them and add them to your procedures binder. You should also think about what information you need to add for your own position, team, and department.
What would you need to get your office running again after a disaster? What if you’re in a temporary location for an extended period of time? Create your plan and procedures for making it happen.
A few quick lessons I learned through my experience include:
- Admins didn’t have time to get approval in the moment, they had to act! My friend Kathy sent several team members with flatbed trucks to Sam’s club and told them to buy every folding table and folding chair they had in stock. She figured they could always return what they didn’t need. They ended up needing every piece purchased. Her entire company worked from a temporary location on folding tables and chairs for close to a year.
- You need a paper backup plan when internet and power are sporadic. Power and internet were on and off for almost two weeks. If you are relying on digital files, and you don’t have power or internet, you’re out of luck. If you’re relying only on paper copies, but you can’t get to them because they are on the fourth floor of a flooded building, you’re out of luck. Even when people could get back into their buildings to retrieve things, the power was out, elevators were out, and hauling a lot of stuff up and down steps was a real challenge.
- Companies were in temporary spaces for a year or longer. One executive I know didn’t take his laptop home with him the day before the floodwaters crested. He never imagined it would get that deep or be that bad. He ended up working from his Blackberry for six weeks before he could get back in his building.
- Relationships are everything! My friend Cheryl immediately got to work calling her local hotel contacts and had ballrooms reserved for multiple months before many people even realized they needed temporary space. Others ended up trying to find temporary locations in conference rooms of other companies outside the flood area. The assistants and executives instantly activated their networks to try to keep business operations running in any way possible.
- Recovery is a long and arduous process. You don’t just get rid of the water and move back in. Most buildings had to be gutted, cleaned, and rebuilt. It took a year or more before the city was at a point where and rebuilding could begin. And the rebuilding process took another 2-5 years to fully complete.
- You need a plan for your home and office. Many people were impacted at work and at home. So, how do you save the office and save your personal possessions at the same time? You need a plan, especially if you are considered a critical person at the office and are leading the efforts there.
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Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity, and Become a Procedures Pro: The Admin’s Guide to Developing Effective Office Systems and Procedures.