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officeReady or not, winter is almost here, serving as a reminder to businesses about the importance of having a continuity plan that effectively ensures your operations remain resilient regardless of the damaging effects of inclement weather.

Unlike our Northern state counterparts, Georgia’s propensity for snow and ice varies widely from year to year. However, spending some time to review the steps necessary to prepare can prove essential and valuable. Business continuity plans should cover a number of contingencies, such as preparing for the lack of access to your most critical resources: staff, facilities and technology.

Securing Your Most Valuable Resource – Your People

If a winter weather event occurs during business hours, management can take actions that demonstrate concern and goodwill on behalf of the business to its employees.

Safety is the first important factor, especially in terms of when employees should be allowed to leave work during a storm or other inclement weather. Unfortunately, there is no magic formula for determining dismissal needs, but you should consider a combination of factors: What time is the storm anticipated to reach our area? Where is staff commuting from and what’s the best time to dismiss them to ensure a safe arrival?

It’s vital to stay informed about weather alerts. A NOAA weather radio is a great tool for detailed weather updates, and the Ready Georgia mobile app offers weather alerts via your smartphone. Also, connecting with your local emergency management agency can provide insight into preparations and responses.

For staff who are required to “shelter in place,” it’s important to validate that your on-site emergency preparation kits contain enough supplies for three days. Basic supplies should include: water; non-perishable food items; flashlights; batteries; blankets; air mattresses; baby wipes, prescription medication, etc.

I’d also recommend establishing a call-tree account to help determine your staff’s location and safety. Some companies provide one-touch emergency communications systems that can immediately notify large numbers of employees and receive feedback of their status. If emergency communications systems are not an option, text messaging is another effective means of reaching your team.

Lack of Access to Facilities

Questions to consider when having limited or no access to your business premises:

  • Can your business function if you are unable to access the office for a number of days?
  • Can work be rerouted to an alternative/partner site not impacted by the weather?
  • Are employees equipped to work remotely?
  • What if the power goes down at their homes?
  • Does critical staff have a Wi-Fi hotspot or cellular wireless cards?
  • Does staff have extra batteries for laptops?
  • Is there a need to notify customers/clients of anticipated service interruption?
  • What means are in place to communicate with employees?
  • How long can your business operate remotely before infrastructural failures (power, landline telephone service, etc.) harm the overall business health?
  • Does the building have security guarding the premises?

Lack of Access to Technology

Technology is the foundation upon which many disaster recovery plans are built. The functioning of most large corporate, mid-sized or small business operations depends on the viability of technical systems. A single piece of malfunctioning equipment can impede operations within an organization. Some remedies to impaired technology can be either cloud-based and/or managed via co-location or other redundant systems.

Co-location data centers offer an alternative to setting up your own disaster recovery (DR) service. These types of facilities allow data centers to house an organization’s networks, servers and storage. Should co-location be an option, be sure to determine if the site fits specific business needs such as capacity, access, transmission speeds, service level agreements and other operational factors. Businesses should also consider the resiliency of the local and regional power-grid and choose a colocated site in a region separate of its headquarters.

Analyzing Your Plan

Conducting an enterprise-wide continuity needs and impact analysis helps a business prioritize recovery resources and strategies as it develops its business continuity plan. The plan should tie together all aspects of a resilience strategy, and it should be reviewed annually and updated as needed. The key to successfully surviving inclement weather is planning and thorough preparation.

Ready Georgia’s Ready Your Business Guide provides a straightforward, 12-point program for business continuity planning. Take action now to make sure that your business is prepared for whatever this winter may have in store.

Tamika McLester is the Business Continuity & Education Compliance Manager at Crawford & Company.


ShakeOut_Global_JoinUs_300x250On Valentine’s Day this year, the earth decided to shake things up a bit. At 10:23 p.m., a 4.1 magnitude earthquake with an epicenter near Edgefield, S.C. shook homes across Georgia, and tremors were felt as far away as south metro Atlanta. The tremors didn’t stop there. Two days later, an aftershock occurred with a magnitude of 3.2.

Although they are somewhat rare in Georgia, history shows that earthquakes are capable of causing significant damage and shouldn’t be quickly categorized as harmless. On August 31, 1886, the great Charleston, South Carolina earthquake caused severe shaking that extended well into the state of Georgia. Once the shock waves reached Savannah, people had difficulty standing, walls cracked, windows broke and buildings were damaged beyond repair. Ultimately, the event caused one casualty and multiple injuries.

Whether you are on vacation, at work, at school or anywhere else, earthquakes can happen at any time with no warning. Instead of allowing you or your family to be shaken up by one of these quakes, consider participating in this year’s Great SouthEast ShakeOut!

Originally organized in California in 2008, the first ShakeOut drill was an effort by scientists and emergency managers to inform the public about earthquake preparedness. Due to its popularity, the ShakeOut drill had a worldwide ripple effect that led to the creation of local and regional drills across the country and around the globe with millions of participants each year.

In Georgia, we are part of the Great SouthEast ShakeOut which is held on the third Thursday of October each year. On October 16 at 10:16 a.m., thousands of participants across the state will practice how to properly “Drop, Cover and Hold On.” The drill also encourages you, your community, your school or your organization to review and update emergency preparedness plans and supplies in order to prevent damage and injuries.

People of all ages are welcomed to register for this year’s Great SouthEast ShakeOut event. Participation is easy – just drop, cover and hold on wherever you are at 10:16 on 10/16.

For more tips on what to do before and after an earthquake, visit the get ready for earthquakes page.


senior-coupleAs we enter the second half of National Preparedness Month, I hope that you’ve taken at least one action to make you and your loved ones more prepared emergencies. Making an emergency plan, being informed about your risks and building an emergency supply kit are critical to keeping yourself safe when disaster strikes.

If you find yourself in the small group of people who count themselves as fully prepared, I’ve got another important message for you. Preparedness isn’t a “fix it and forget it” activity. Life circumstances change, and it’s important that you revisit your emergency plans to make sure that they keep pace with those changes.

I was reminded of that lesson myself earlier this year. As you might expect, I’ve gone to great lengths to make sure that my family is prepared. When the weather is at its worst, my staff and I are at GEMA headquarters coordinating emergency response across the state. That means my family has to be ready for severe weather, equipped with supplies and the knowledge that they need to protect themselves.

My emergency plan was made at a time when my parents were completely self-sufficient, and it assumed that they would be able to take care of the last-minute preparations for a winter storm. Unfortunately, both of my parents have had changes in their health, and they are no longer as mobile as they used to be. Last February, with significant ice accumulations in the forecast and a high likelihood of power outages, my parents realized they needed to bring in additional firewood but they were not able to do it themselves.

I am immensely grateful that my parents’ neighbors were there to help, and I’m glad to say that everything turned out well in the end. But I’ve asked myself many times since then – what if the neighbors hadn’t been there? What if my parents had needed medicine or food? The situation could have been much more serious.

I share this story in hopes that it will be a helpful reminder to you, just as it was to me, that it’s critical to revisit your emergency plans from time to time.


praise_logo_grnIn the wake of a disaster, helping hands are always needed. Hands that pick up the pieces after a tornado tears through a town. Hands to help find shelter for individuals and families whose homes have been destroyed. Hands that bring hope in the form of much-needed food, water and supplies.

These helping hands often belong to members of the faith-based community who feel called to provide assistance and emergency support. The Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) stands with these houses of worship and has created the new Praise & Preparedness program to provide tools and resources to help them get ready before a disaster strikes.

Earlier this year, we completed our Praise & Preparedness pilot program with a house of worship in Bartow County that had been affected by a tornado in January 2013. Since completing the pilot program, I have spent the last seven months introducing Praise & Preparedness to other houses of worship across the state. I have been pleased with the response our program has received, and I’ve been even more pleased to hear many faith leaders express their concern about making sure that their congregants are prepared.

Praise & Preparedness makes it easy for faith-based organizations to prepare. Our website has a template to assist in creating a plan that addresses operations, communications and other key aspects of emergency planning. Our online toolkit also offers a variety of resources to help organizations share information that promotes emergency preparedness among its members. The end goal is to make sure that a faith-based community is prepared at both the individual and congregational level so that everyone is in stronger position to help in the wake of an emergency.

Houses of worship are a place of refuge and an ideal location to start recovery and healing. Now they can also be places that are prepared to handle emergency situations when they arise.


xs and osFor many Americans, it is one of the most wonderful times of the year: football season. Coaches like the Atlanta Falcons’ Mike Smith and University of Georgia’s Mark Richt have spent the past year laying the foundation for successful seasons, investing countless hours to get their teams ready for the obstacles they will encounter.

As you’re counting down to your team’s first kickoff of the season, tackle your emergency preparedness to-do list using some of the same tactics your favorite coaches employ.

  • Gear Up: A coach wouldn’t let a football player be caught on the field without the proper equipment, and you and your family shouldn’t face an emergency without the proper supplies either. Be sure you have everything on your emergency checklist stocked up before a disaster strikes, including enough food and water to last you and for family for up to 72 hours. Also purchase a NOAA weather radio and download the free Ready Georgia mobile app to receive vital emergency alerts.
  • Research Your Opponent: The best way to beat an opponent is to know its capabilities and strengths. Take time before a disaster and do some research to know what you could be up against.
  • Practice: The old saying “practice makes perfect” is true in most aspects in life, but especially in disaster preparedness. Prior to a disaster, create a plan and practice it with your family to make sure all members of your team are ready.

Now that you know the basic Xs and Os of preparing for disasters, do you think you’re ready? Share your game plan with your friends and family to make sure you all will be successful if and when disaster strikes.


Pay it Back

old hands2“When you’re older, you’ll understand.” “Use your inside voice.” “If you keep making that face, it will freeze that way.” The growing up years are filled with admonishments, rules and parenthood clichés designed to keep kids out of trouble and bring a measure of peace and quiet to a household.

Now it’s time for your inner child to return the favor. August 21 is National Senior Citizen’s Day and the perfect opportunity for you to take some of the phrases and life lessons your elders have given you, and pay it back to prepare them for emergencies.

  • “Don’t run in the house!”  Running around and grabbing items in the midst of an emergency is not ideal for anyone, especially seniors. Help the older adults in your life create a Ready kit of basic supplies that will allow them to survive on their own for at least 72 hours following a disaster. Remember that their needs are different from yours, and that their kit should include additional items such as extra eyeglasses, extra medications, hearing aids and hearing aid batteries, wheelchair batteries, oxygen, etc.
  • “Pay attention!” Encourage seniors to regularly check the weather forecast in their area and react accordingly. For example, this week’s temperatures are expected to rise over 100 degrees across Georgia with heat index values that will approach 110 degrees. During this extreme heat, it is important to drink plenty of water and stay indoors as much as possible. It’s also important for older Georgians to have multiple means of receiving emergency alerts in the event of sudden, severe weather. Purchase a battery-powered NOAA weather radio and add an adaptive device if your parents would benefit from visual or other sensory alerts. Seniors are also becoming more technologically savvy, so if your parent has a smart phone, encourage them to download the Ready Georgia app to receive alerts of bad weather in their area.
  •  “Don’t make me come in there…” Your parents shouldn’t rely solely on you if a disaster were to strike. Use Ready Georgia’s family communications plan template, working with your parents to make sure that they have several people who can assist them in case of an emergency. When helping them develop their plan, locate the safest place in their home to seek shelter and determine how they would evacuate if the need arose. Make sure they have information on how to meet their medical or prescription needs in the event of their necessary resources become limited or unavailable.
  • “Someday you’ll thank me for this.” Don’t be surprised if your parents fuss a bit and try to insist that they can take care of themselves. Gently explain that helping them is helping you, giving you peace of mind that they’re ready for whatever disasters may come their way.

back-to-school111941_compressedAs summer is quickly winding down, parents, teachers and students are making checklists and rounding up all of their necessary items for going back-to-school. But back-to-school preparation should involve more than just new clothes, textbooks and classroom supplies. Now is also the perfect time to update Ready kits, discuss emergency preparedness with children and add school emergency information to family communications plans.

Here are our top three tips to get you ready for the new school year:

  • When shopping for school supplies, pick up items for your Ready kit as well. Use the supply checklist on the Ready Georgia mobile app to keep track of which items you need to stock.
  • Mark your calendar for a family evacuation drill. It’s easy to put off this important emergency preparedness step indefinitely, but setting a reminder on your phone or putting it on the family calendar will help make sure you get it done.
  • Your family may not be together when a disaster strikes, so it’s important to make a plan to reconnect. Fill out an emergency contact card and put it in your child’s backpack. The family communications plan template on the Ready Georgia website includes wallet cards you can use for this purpose.

In addition to these tips, the Ready Georgia’s free online toolkit includes many kid-friendly resources that make it easy to prepare. Lesson plans about possible disasters, a recommended reading list and emergency preparedness videos are available for use in school classrooms, at home, or by any organization or agency that works with elementary school-aged children. The Ready Georgia website and mobile app also offer customizable emergency supply checklists and family communication plan templates. For more information, visit www.ready.ga.gov.


The cliché that “there’s no substitute for experience” often proves true. Whether it’s at work or in life, sometimes there’s just no way to know how to handle something until you’ve been through it.

In the past year, Georgians have been through a lot. According to a new survey conducted by Ready Georgia, twice as many residents had recent experiences with large-scale emergencies than in the previous year, ranging from winter storms to tornadoes to floods.

However, the survey also revealed that people who went through those emergencies took actions to get more prepared for the next time. Most of them stocked emergency supplies, and many devised an emergency plan.

In other words, actually experiencing an emergency shifted many Georgians’ frame of reference and left many realizing they may not be as prepared as they thought they were. It makes sense. I may not realize how useful a backup phone charger or a battery-powered radio is until I’m stuck at home without power. If that outage lasts for a few days, I will realize how important it is to stock up on non-perishable food.

What about how to connect with family members if mobile phone networks are busy? Knowing in advance that text messages are more likely to get through can save valuable battery life instead of trying phone call after phone call. And if you can’t get in touch with someone at all, having a family meeting place arranged in advance is crucial.

Unfortunately, many of us don’t realize the importance of these simple actions until it’s too late. It’s the result of another cliché: “I never thought it would happen to me.” Here’s a sample of the percentages of Georgians who have stocked different types of recommended supplies:


Whether or not you’ve experienced an emergency recently, I’d encourage you to get prepared. Think about where you would go if you had to evacuate due to a hurricane. Think about how you would get in touch with your loved ones if you were separated. Think about what you would need if you had to make it three days without electricity.

Ready Georgia has tools to help make it easy. Create a Ready profile to get a customized supplies list and plan. Download our newly improved mobile app to access that info at any time and get emergency alerts. We also have information specific to pets, older residents and those with functional needs.


Atlanta_Lightning_StrikeWelcome to the first week of summer! Saturday marked the official start to a season full of outdoor festivities. You may know all the facts about summer fun, but are you up to speed on summer’s severe weather? Georgia summers are notorious for a variety of severe weather, but two of its biggest threats are extreme heat and lightning. Consider these striking facts:

Striking Fact #1: Heat is the #1 weather-related killer in the U.S. Tornadoes and hurricanes often get the headlines, but excessive heat is a formidable foe that claims more lives each year than floods, tornadoes and hurricanes combined. Stay informed about ways to remain safe when the temperature rises.

Striking Fact #2: The temperature inside a vehicle can rise 20 degrees in as little as 10 minutes and 50 degrees in an hour- even when outside air temperatures are in the 70s. Thirteen children have died this year from heat stroke after being left in a car, including an Atlanta toddler who was left in a car for more than seven hours one day last week. Check out the National Weather Service’s “Beat the Heat, Check the Back Seat” campaign for more information about keeping kids safe this summer. Never leave children or pets alone in closed vehicles.

Striking Fact #3: Lightning kills an average of 51 people and severely injures hundreds more each year in the U.S. Lightning is a deadly by-product of thunderstorms, occurring mostly during the warmer months of June through September. It’s also Lightning Safety Awareness Week, the perfect time to brush up on the 30-30 rule and other tips for staying safe.

For more tips and facts about summer’s severe weather, download the Ready Georgia mobile app or visit our website.


Home screenAt the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA), we have been hard at work on an improved version of the Ready Georgia mobile app for several months, and we are glad to announce that it is now available on iTunes and Google Play. The app, which originally launched in 2011, has been very successful at helping Georgia residents get prepared for emergencies, so much so that it has become a model for dozens of other states.

For the latest version of the app, our goal was to not only help users prepare before emergencies, but to give them better resources during emergencies as well. With that in mind, we made several significant improvements:


Before Emergencies: Improved Alerts

Alerts screenThe Ready Georgia app’s primary goal is to help Georgians get prepared before disasters strike, and it does this by providing features like a customizable emergency plan and supplies checklist, information about how to prepare for different types of disasters, and weather alerts.

In the latest version of the app, the alerts have received a significant upgrade. Geo-targeted severe weather alerts from the National Weather Service will now automatically notify your phone if there is a watch or a warning in your area. In addition, GEMA and the Department of Public Health now have the ability to send custom messages to individual counties if there is important information that needs to be delivered. This feature will only be used to communicate essential information, but it’s a useful tool to stay informed.


During Emergencies: Real-time Traffic & Shelter Information

Traffic Map screenWith the focus of the Ready Georgia app expanding to become a resource during emergencies, one of the key new features is the real-time traffic information. The app now has a live traffic map with icons of traffic incident locations, as well as a list of recent traffic incidents and relevant news and updates, such as current construction. These features will help Georgians stay more informed about current road conditions and how to avoid gridlocked areas.

Another feature that has been improved is the Open Shelters map, which displays the locations of nearby shelters and provides directions on how to find them. Previously, this map only displayed the locations of Red Cross shelters, but GEMA now has the ability to add other types of shelters to the map, such as approved “good Samaritan” locations that may open on an impromptu basis. This will enable users to find a safe place to go during and after emergencies.

The new Ready Georgia app is a valuable tool, and we encourage everyone with an iPhone or Android smartphone to download it. Remember, there is no all-in-one solution to staying safe. It’s important to stay weather-aware and keep up with what’s going on in your area. It’s also crucial to get ready in advance by making a plan and creating a Ready kit with crucial supplies.

As we head into hurricane season, we hope you take some time to get prepared so you can enjoy a safe summer.


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