Disaster Strikes

Despite the threat of disasters, many people fail to develop emergency plans. It often takes experiencing a disaster to recognize the need for a contingency plan, but electrical contractors can suggest such plans to their customers before calamity strikes.

The best way to approach this comes from using a process known as “risk analysis.” No need to rush off to buy a new book that describes how to begin this process; you already have one: NFPA 72 2013, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, which provides some easy-to-follow guidance on how to conduct a risk analysis. There also are good tips at www.ready.gov.

Another nuance to disaster planning is companies with remote locations. Consider that, if a disaster occurs in a remote location, all the contractors there will be busy dealing with the after-effects created for their own families or businesses. You can offer to serve your customer on-site by bringing their facility up and running faster with your team’s response.

So, you should approach the analysis from two directions. First, ask yourself what happens if the disaster strikes at home. Then ask yourself what happens when the disaster strikes a remote location and how you can effectively respond.

The code provides a list of categories that describe potential events you should consider when you begin the risk analysis. This list deals mostly with general items and does not represent every possible event. The categories include natural hazards, human-caused accidental and intentional events, and technological-caused events.

The risk analysis should include a review of how the fire alarm and signaling system will notify building occupants that a disaster is imminent. It should also review how the occupants will communicate during the event.

You may stock equipment to help the customer restore his or her fire alarm and voice communications systems. You may also create strategic partnerships with equipment suppliers to stock what may become necessary and to agree to give you and your customer priority when you need to install a replacement system.

The code provides some questions to discuss with your customer’s management team regarding mass notification decisions. Of course, tailor these questions for your customer and the occupancy:

Not all of these questions apply to every customer’s needs, but they provide a good foundation for the risk analysis process. When talking with your customer, stress that their response to an emergency must be immediate and deliberate. In an emergency, there is no time for indecision.

Your ability to serve your customers during a disaster offers you a unique marketing opportunity, which will provide some special benefits for you and your customers. Consider how to approach the issues a disaster might present and how to respond. If you do, you will improve your value to your customers.

About the Author

Wayne D. Moore

Fire/Life Safety Columnist
Wayne D. Moore, a licensed fire protection engineer, frequent speaker and an expert in the life safety field, is a principal member and past chair of NFPA 72, Chapter 24. Moore is a vice president with JENSEN HUGHES at the Warwick, R.I., office. He c...

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