Disasters Don’t Wait: Key Preparation Steps You Need to Take

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Release date: 7/2/2019

Disasters Don’t Wait: Key Preparation Steps You Need to Take
By Fiona Soltes

With natural disasters, needs abound. But there’s one thing that fleet professionals consistently discover is more valuable than gold: fuel.

Ask anyone who has faced a major event, whether flooding, tornado, hurricane, ice storm, or otherwise, and they’ll say much the same: Any type of disaster preparation simply must include plans for fuel sites, generators, and options for additional resources if needed. It’s also important to consider all types of fuel that are used.

Of course, that’s only the start. Planning well for disaster, the experts say, means effective communication, clear roles and responsibilities, coordination with other departments, regular training and updates, and a bit of creativity when considering what might happen.

Yes, it is possible to put off that planning until another day, surmising that “the big one” isn’t all that likely for your operation. If so, however, consider this: In 2017 alone, the U.S. saw 16 weather and climate disasters costing at
least $1 billion each, from drought in the Dakotas and Montana to hurricanes in Florida and Texas to wildfires and floods in California.

“Being unprepared is never an option,” advised TxDOT Fleet Operations Division Deputy Director and NAFA Regular
Member Kevin Fareri, CAFM®.

All in the Details: Disasters – natural or otherwise – impact people in a variety of ways. For NAFA Regular Member DeAnn Reynolds, CAFM, the 2007 historic ice storm in Springfield, Missouri, and the devastating 2011 tornado across the state in Joplin each left an impression. In addition, less severe ice storms occur most winters. Reynolds, Fleet and Equipment Supervisor for the Springfield, Missouri, Police Department, said that thanks to events like these, she better understands the importance of her position.

“Fleet is often support staff,” she said. “We’re unsung heroes. When things like this happen, it makes me feel like I’ve done my part. You can see where a firefighter has done his part, or a police officer has done his. Fleet is back there making it possible for them to play their parts. If they didn’t have the fuel or equipment they needed, they wouldn’t be able to do it.”

That planning, then, is essential, even if it can’t possibly cover every scenario. Integral to planning is understanding
the literal landscape the fleet must traverse. Areas near fault lines have an increased propensity for earthquakes.

Forest regions that have dry, hot summers have raised potential for wildfires. Low regions near waterways will experience flooding more often. Before a single action is plotted, there should be a clear-eyed assessment of what could go wrong based on the variables already surrounding you. Of course, these stepscan seem obvious, and the difference between success and tragedy can rest in the minor points that escape the traditional “tabletop” exercises.

“The surprises are in the small details,” Reynolds said. “Every time you think you’ve heard or seen it all, there will be some little thing that will surprise you. You may think you have every ‘I’ dotted and every ‘T’ crossed, but there will always be an asterisk there, something you could have done better.”

It might be a minor repair that could have made a difference if it had happened beforehand, for example. But there also
can be good surprises, such as the way different entities can come together in times of need to meet common goals.

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