Business

Emergency preparedness offers financial incentives for Federal Way businesses

A hefty 2008 snowstorm left the city covered in snow for several weeks. The storm affected residents and businesses alike. - Mirror file photo
A hefty 2008 snowstorm left the city covered in snow for several weeks. The storm affected residents and businesses alike.
— image credit: Mirror file photo

People prepare their homes for an emergency. Why not prepare their businesses?

The City of Federal Way will offer a free Disaster Ready Business Workshop this month. Attendees will learn how to plan for an emergency or natural disaster that could alter the way they do business. Emphasis will be placed on preparedness, response and recovery. Participants will be assisted in creating an emergency operations plan, and urged to consider a contingency plan, to address the impacts of a disaster.

The workshop is the city's first effort at including the business sector in emergency preparedness. Past efforts focused on preparing individuals, neighborhoods and city government. But no matter how prepared these sectors are, a city-wide recovery from a disaster relies on businesses to supply the materials and services needed to bounce back. The sooner the business sector recovers, the sooner the entire community recovers, said Ray Gross, emergency management coordinator.

"Obviously, there's a glaring need for (the workshop)," Gross said. "It meets that need in the middle."

Historically, businesses that are not prepared to experience a disaster have a harder time recovering from the catastrophe, emergency management specialist Mary Hobday said. Roughly 35 percent of small businesses are forced to shut down after a disaster, she said. This affects not only business owners, but employees and the community as a whole.

"Once the businesses close, the people start leaving," Hobday said. "It can have a significant impact."

The workshop will cover a broad spectrum of emergency preparedness efforts. Topics will include training employees, using supplies such as fire extinguishers, and avoiding property damage.

Participants will be guided through a process in which they identify their most critical business operations and focus on ways to continue offering services following a disaster. How will the business continue if power is lost or the facility is damaged?

At a time when businesses of all sizes are struggling to stay afloat, such precautions could pay off by avoiding long-term financial and operational costs brought about by an unexpected emergency.

"I think (the workshop) is a very progressive approach and it's very timely," Federal Way business owner Idalie Munoz Munoz said.

Munoz Munoz is the owner of Munoz Media, a public relations company. Among other things, she helps other businesses experiencing a crisis to communicate with the public and internal staff members. She helps them communicate the steps they've taken, before and following the disaster, in an effort to address the problem.

Munoz Munoz is attending the workshop to learn more about the potential crisis her clients may face. She also wishes to learn more about how clients may handle those emergencies. People tend to think during an emergency, they'll just pick up the phone and call for help, but that is not always an option, she said.

"It would help me to help them in terms of what is the essential information that needs to be communicated to the public and employees," she said.

On a personal level, the workshop will assist Munoz Munoz's own business. If a computer crashes, she wants to be prepared. She hopes to learn more about emerging technologies that serve as external means for storing information.

Free workshop: Sign up today

Sparks Car Care, Safeway, Woodstone Credit Union and Lloyd Enterprises Inc. helped the city shape its workshop so that it will be useful to business owners. DeVry is offering space for the workshop, which runs July 28, Aug. 4 and 11 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at Federal Way's DeVry University campus, 3600 S. 344th Way. Attendees must plan to attend all three sessions.

To participate in the workshop, rsvp by e-mail before July 23 to FWEM@cityoffederalway.com. Include the name of the business, name of the participant and a contact phone number. Space is limited. Contact Mary Hobday at (253) 835-2704.

Check it out

Another opportunity for learning about and getting involved in Federal Way's emergency preparedness planning is the Greater Federal Way Emergency Management Program's Community Organizations Active in Disasters (COAD) group.

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