I have never been to Japan.  I cannot begin to understand the tremendous circumstances the country and its people have experienced.  However, I have lived through a natural disaster.  Many of my Nashville friends and clients found themselves in a mess of trouble earlier this year during the May floods

What did we learn?  We learned that you should have a disaster recovery or emergency plan.  Here is what else we learned:

  1. The time for creating an emergency plan is not during the emergency.  There are going to be obvious and not-so-obvious things to do before an emergency occurs.  One of the most obvious preparations that can be done is to prepare an emergency manual that outlines the potential "events" and "responses."   As a developer or contractor, you can prepare a manual that outlines how your company and employees should respond to a work site accident involving a fatality, or unusually severe weather, or other "unexpected" event.
  2. Build the "right" culture of leaders, management and employees.  In other words, get the "right people on the bus" or find competent leadership. Start by setting up a team consisting of the department heads in the company to discuss all the possible risks that might be encountered. Conduct a risk assessment study.
  3. Communication has to be direct and honest during an emergency.  You cannot rely 100% on the information given to you about a particular event, emergency or disaster.  But you can control the information that process.   It is important to communicate clearly to your employees and the public about the emergency affecting your project.
  4. Draft an interim plan to address any immediate emergency issues. Identify how to face it with minimal losses and make sure you have a command center (the "home office") and an outside communication line in case a disaster occurs. (Again, this takes pre-planning.)
  5. Draft an ongoing plan to address the aftermath.  Explain what each department is going to do, identify the leaders, and suggested protocol.  This can involve everything from notice letters to all contracting parties, as well as recovery plans for getting the project back on schedule. 
  6. Test your plan and adjust it accordingly.  How are you to know that your plan will work without testing it?  You won’t.  You and your company need to prepare for the worst case scenario and plan for the best case response. 

I hope that we never experience a disaster like the one facing Japanese families and businesses.  But if so … you should be prepared.