Safety First

Mary Best headshot
Mary Best
Editorial Director

A couple decades ago, I lived in Oklahoma for a while. I had little knowledge about the Sooner State, except it was known for college football, wind and tornadoes. Being from North Carolina, it never occurred to me that at least one of those famous — or infamous — stereotypes was founded in twisting reality.

I learned about this life-threatening reality one April afternoon when a series of tornadoes marched up tornado alley and swept through the town in which I lived. As embarrassing as it is to admit, I had no idea what to do. I had never taken the time to think about what to do and where to go in the event one touched down. After all, what were the chances? And like everyone, planning for a disaster wasn’t top of mind.

As I stood frozen, watching the local news detail the route the storm was taking, I heard a siren. Loud. Constant. Annoying. I had heard the blaring before but figured someone’s alarm system accidentally had been triggered. As the tempest approached, I took the lead from my dog, who had climbed into the bathtub. I hunkered down with her, piling pillows and blankets on top of us (although I realized that not even the best-made pillow could prevent a 2 x 4 speeding at 150 mph from smashing through the wall).

After the storm passed, I surveyed the moderate damage to the house. While outside, my neighbor stopped by and asked at which storm shelter I had sought refuge. “What storm shelter?” I asked. Then, it dawned on me. The siren I kept hearing was a warning that a tornado was imminent and I should head to the basement of a nearby municipal building. The town had a plan, even if  I didn’t. Other than the elderly couple who lived next door and still used an underground storm cellar (think Auntie Em), I was the only person in the county who failed to properly protect herself and her dog.

I was lucky. I could have been killed. But by not preparing for an emergency and familiarizing myself with the resources available, I learned a valuable lesson about putting safety first. I was reminded that the need to feel safe, whether at home or work, is a universal experience, one the human race has spent millennia trying to create and protect.

This month’s cover story, “Ready or Not” by Julie A. Palm, looks at these issues on a manufacturing plant level by considering the importance of disaster preparedness and best practices to implement to safeguard employees and businesses, as well as steps to take to rebound from a crisis. (See story on page 28.) As Palm notes, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, an alarmingly high number of businesses (62%) don’t have an emergency preparedness plan in place. (And according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency, natural disasters cost the United States $91 billion in 2018.) If you are part of that majority, how will you respond if a tornado — or some other catastrophe — blows through your plant? As our cover story underscores, there are ways to prevent being the architect of your own misfortune.

The BedTimes staff can’t think of anything more important than helping you make sure your employees and company are safe and have continued success.