5 Lessons in Overcoming Crisis

I have been asked to write this to tell you of the lessons learnt and my experiences during the Christchurch earthquakes.The most significant thing for me was the effect these events had on my staff, family and customers. You can never understand this without living through it personally but these tips may help you prepare in some small way.

1. Be safe
The most important thing to remember in a natural disaster is to stay safe. This includes caring for those around you. Think very carefully before entering building and do not allow your staff to put themselves at risk either. Evaluate carefully before taking any action that may put anyone around you in danger.

2. Stay calm
Easer said than done I know, but as a manager or owner of a self storage facility you must remember that your staff and customers look to you for guidance in a time of crisis. Take a methodical approach to every action and simply keep moving (with caution) onto the next task at hand.

3. Be Compassionate
Those around you will perhaps react very differently to yourself and will have their own concerns about their families and possessions. I know myself that it was almost 5 hours before I could get to my son’s school which was in a very badly affected area. The pure joy of seeing him safe was overwhelming and his needs to be with me was the same. Remember, your staff will have these same concerns for their loved ones also.

4. Be realistic
It makes no sense to complain about the lack of phone coverage etc during a natural disaster. Essential services will be either stretched or damaged, so getting upset about it will only put you in an emotional state that is of no use to anyone. Do the best you can with what you have around you. It is your only sensible option and those around you will thank you for it. As a leader you need to try not to get caught up in things you have no control over.

5. Be prepared
We all moan and complain about checking our first aid kits etc, but please take it from me that these things are essential to getting you through a disaster. I suggest that you should have the following things at your facility, just in case:
– Stocked first aid kit
– At least 5 litres of drinking water
– Hard hats for you and your staff
– High visibility vests for you and your staff
– Torches with spare batteries
– Some simple packet food items like muesli bars, biscuits or similar
– A cheap gas cooker so that you can boil water if necessary

None of the above items are expensive and trust me when I say that you will need them. We had an elderly diabetic lady stranded at our facility on the day of our February 11th earthquake who desperately required food and water. Fortunately we were able to assist her because we had the necessary items on hand and readily available.

Talk to your staff about the possibility of a natural disaster event and even talk through their individual responsibilities. You never know when you may need it! I was very lucky to have great staff around me who, as luck would have it, had done personal training in this area. I would suggest that you will not all be that luck and at some point, may need to rely on your preparation and reserves.

On a brighter note, Christchurch is slowly getting itself together again. I firmly believe that in the years to come this city will be ‘the place to be’ in terms of a modern and well designed green city. Peoples houses are slowly being repaired now and the infrastructure is slowly being put to rights. It is a massive job though, for a city so small and of course there are a lot of (and in some cases, valid) disgruntled residents. It is fair to say that planning a route around this city is a hazard in itself, as the amount of closed roads and detours changes almost daily.

It is important to remember that ‘it is what it is’, and by being a little prepared and using some common sense you can get through.

Geoff Adams
Manager Storage King, Ferry Road – Christchurch

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