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State public health director helps businesses prepare for emergencies and disasters          Send a link to a friend

Six chambers of commerce participate

[NOV. 1, 2006]  PALATINE -- Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director, was joined by the author of "When Disaster Strikes Home," Norris Beren, and Dr. Arvind Goyal, president of the American Association of Public Health Physicians, for a panel discussion Oct. 13 on what businesses can and should do to prepare for an emergency or disaster. The Business Association of Chambers Biz 6 Plus, consisting of chambers of commerce from Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove, Mount Prospect, Palatine, Rolling Meadows and Wheeling/Prospect Heights, along with Harper College hosted the panel discussion at the Worjcik Conference Center.

"Businesses need to be prepared and have a plan to be able to continue essential functions within their organization following an emergency, disaster or any other adverse event," Whitaker said. "They should also have a plan to be able to help save lives and protect the health and safety of the community outside their business."

Whitaker addressed the myth that business planning is limited to preserving vital records and backing up data. The reality is businesses need to address people, processes, systems and infrastructure elements needed to continue essential functions during a disaster or major incident.

Businesses need to consider a plan for the loss of their physical facility that could occur during a tornado or flood. Another contingency to plan for is the loss of information technology or telecommunications systems. Businesses should also have a plan in case numerous employees are unable to work at the same time -- for example, during an infectious disease outbreak.

"Major corporations have the ability to do emergency and disaster planning, but smaller businesses haven't given planning much thought ... and this is something important to think about," said Jim Uszler, executive director of the Mount Prospect Chamber. "Even for some of the simple things we've been seeing recently, like the rainfall and flooding, there are things businesses can do to prepare. If they knew the power was going to be out for 72 hours, they could partner up with a business on the other side of town so they wouldn't have to close for three days."

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Major steps in building business continuity capability include:

  • Taking inventory of all functions performed by the organization.

  • Identifying functions that cannot be interrupted for more than a short time.

  • Identifying critical or essential functions and what is needed to perform them.

  • Establishing alternate ways for maintaining critical or essential functions after losing one or more needed input.

Whitaker encouraged businesses to perform a complete inventory of their vulnerabilities, assess needs and consider their environment in order to create disaster and emergency plans.

[Illinois Department of Public Health news release]

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