Preparing for the Unpredictable

July 1, 2008

Editorial Director Linda K. Monroe talks about her own experiences with disaster preparation and recovery

As New Products Editor Jenna M. Aker explains in her article on preparing for severe weather, there's nothing as temperamental as Mother Nature. Is the world's recent slew of hurricanes, tornadoes, and torrential rains part of a 100- or 500-year cycle? Are such extremes the result of climate change? The reasons why have certainly been recent topics of discussion on the news, in documentaries, and among friends and colleagues. Your professional concerns, however, must be directed toward protecting your building and its occupants from the dire consequences of intense weather.

Think it can't happen to you? Think again. A recent record crest of 15-feet above flood stage from the river that flows through my hometown of Cedar Rapids, IA, resulted in $1 billion worth of damage (and the evacuation of about 25,000 of the city's 120,000 residents from their homes). Water flowed throughout downtown streets, submerging businesses and vegetation, and lapping just below electrical wires and billboards. Homes in low-lying areas took a beating as river water and the resulting "sludge" invaded basements and entire first floors. Images portrayed to the nation on television and across the Internet were shocking; the reality even more so.

Yet, throughout this crisis, and as clean-up and rebuilding continues, the real story here is about the sensibility, work ethic, and fellowship of Midwesterners. As I'm writing this column at press time (just one week after the flooding), the area is already bouncing back—physically and emotionally—with a renewed vitality and can-do spirit. Also inspiring were the continuity plans that kept our business operations functional and almost seamless from Day One. Thanks to the loyalty and dedication of those I'm proud to call my colleagues (some of whom personally experienced significant property damage), Buildings carried on with "business as usual."

As Jenna confirms in her story, once a strong plan is in place and your building is fortified to its full potential, all you can do is stay alert. The weather, as my community and I learned firsthand, is unpredictable, but proactive facilities professionals can be the calm before, during, and after the storm.

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