Emergency Supply Strategies ? For Any Business

Water – In general, the “Rule of 3s” tells us that humans can go without water for up to 3 days and without food for up to 3 weeks.  However, such fasting could adversely affect many systems within the body.  It has been shown that if you lose just 2.5% of your body weight from water loss, you will loose 25% of your efficiency.  Water is the key to survival and having adequate supplies is critical to maintaining your employee’s mental acuity and stability.  Many sources recommend up to 1 gallon of water per day per person; however, this includes medical and hygiene uses for the water as well.  Two quarts (approximately 2 litres) per day may be a better approximation for drinking purposes only.  Assuming that the average outdoor temperature is 80o F and employees are inside a building out of the direct sunlight, survival may be possible with at little as 8 to 10 ounces of water per day.  The general rule for water storage is the more the better, but there are storage and transportation issues associated with large quantities of water that you need to consider.  1) Space to store large quantities of water is generally at a premium and floor loading may be a consideration in some instances; and 2) the cost to ship water is expensive due to the weight.  Local purchases tend to be less expensive.

Food – In survival terms, “Food” is a generic term that represents calories.  It’s not that we need a cheeseburger for lunch, we need 800-1000 calories per day to maintain acceptable body functions.  Variations depend on a person’s weight, level of activity during the emergency and their mental outlook (stress level).  Employees performing light search and rescue operations in your building will burn more calories and therefore require more calories.  This will also be true in low temperature environments where humans expend additional energy to maintain body heat.  Most employees enjoy 3 meals a day in their normal daily routine; however, in survival mode they may be snacking more throughout the day to make their rations last.  The easiest food rations to procure are high calorie food bars designed to be stored for up to 5 years.  While all employees may not enjoy these bars, they will provide the needed calories for your employees to survive a 3 day emergency.  To make the emergency more tolerable, you can consider more sophisticated rations such as “meals ready to eat” or “MREs.”  These are available in various breakfast and dinner entrées as well as complete meals.  Most are self-heating and you should make sure that the ones you select do not require additional water to heat the meals.  This is important as you may not have the means to heat food, and water may be in short supply.  Such meals could allow employees to get at least 2 “normal” meals per day and you can augment those with food bars for mid-day snacks if you like.

Shelter – Assuming your building has not been structurally compromised, it woul be possible to keep your employees within the structure or maybe a smaller section of the structure.  As such, shelter from the elements would not be a concern.  However, if power has been lost, you may need to consider supplies to keep your employees warm and somewhat comfortable at night while asleep.  Items such as limited use survival blankets and sleeping bags could prove useful.  A greater problem is keeping your employees at the office when the structure is not suitable for occupancy.  This exposes them to the environment and there are a myriad of shelter problems that should be considered.  An initial plan would be to coordinate with adjacent businesses or other suitable structures (e.g., church, warehouse, etc.) that your employees may share during an emergency.  Another unaffected building on your campus may also be an option.  In lieu of an alternate structure, you will need to consider portable shelters or tents (with walls if your location is susceptible to cold weather), cots, tarps, and portable heaters, lighting and power.

Communication – It is critical during any emergency to have access to the Emergency Alert System (EAS) to keep you informed as to the status of the emergency.  If land-line and cell phones are inoperable and power outages restrict radio, television and Internet access, you need a way to stay informed.  Here is where a hand wind-up AM/FM radio becomes very valuable.  Even without electricity or batteries you can listen to stations still able to broadcast via the EAS.  Obviously, not everyone needs a radio, but having access to updated information will help to put employees at ease.  The number of radios you should have depends on the total number of employees sheltered, number of floors, size of your office or number of buildings on your campus. In general, having one radio for every 20-40 employees is a good estimate.


Hygiene/Sanitation – This should not be a concern unless you have lost the water supply to the lavatory facilities in your building.  In which case, you now need to consider a backup waste collection system and provide some means for employees to maintain their personal hygiene and prevent the spread of germs.  Portable wash stations and toilets are readily available and fairly inexpensive to rent; however you would have to have these resources placed at your facility in advance of an emergency and they are bulky.  Other less expensive options include portable folding toilets with waste bags or 5 gallon buckets with toilet seats and waste bags.

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