Businesses should have plans in place for emergencies | La Niña

With another La Niña winter season approaching, families aren't the only ones who need to prepare for cold weather — businesses need to as well.

With another La Niña winter season approaching, families aren’t the only ones who need to prepare for cold weather — businesses need to as well.

Debbie Newman, emergency management specialist for the City of Redmond, said one of the biggest things businesses need to think about is their employees and their families because “preparedness really covers everybody.” She said employers should encourage workers to develop an emergency plan at home so they are able to focus better on the job at hand.

“Your employees are going to be distracted,” she said.

Newman said it is also important for businesses to think about what is critical for them to keep going such as electricity and computers. She said if your business depends on computers, then you should have the data backed up offsite. Additionally, computers should be kept off the ground in the case of flooding, Newman added.

In the case of power outages, businesses need to think whether they have access to a generator and how the lack of electricity may affect them.

“Is your business going to come to a halt?” Newman asked.

Newman said there is software and tool kits available to businesses that play the “what if game” and walk businesses through the process of emergency planning. Businesses can contact her at for more information.

Additionally, Newman said businesses should also know what other businesses and groups in the area will be able to offer, such as alternative means of communication and lumber (which can be used for firewood).

One organization that is helping local businesses do this is Redmond COAD (Community Organizations Active in Disasters). According to its website, Redmond COAD advocates for and promotes a “coordinated countywide disaster preparedness planning initiative that aims to integrate human services agencies and faith-based organizations into the county’s disaster preparedness system.”

Scott Noon, a member of Redmond COAD and the facilities director at Overlake Christian Church (OCC), said businesses should remember three letters: DCR, which stand for develop, communicate and rehearse. Businesses should develop an emergency plan, communicate it to their employees and rehearse the plan.

Noon said the latter is the most important.

“If you don’t rehearse it, you’re not going to know where the holes are,” he said.

Noon added that the emergency plan should be updated regularly.

Traci Tenhulzen, chair for Redmond COAD, said if your business depends on other businesses to operate, it is also important to check in with them and know what their emergency plans are.

For example, Tenhulzen is the office manager at Tenhulzen Remodeling in downtown Redmond and said much of their business involves working with vendors for materials, which has a trickle-down effect in an emergency.

“If (these other businesses are) not up and running we’re not going to make it,” she said.

Tenhulzen acknowledges that planning for an emergency is difficult and scary, but it needs to be done. She said people need to remember that it is okay — and very important — to ask for help as well.