Learning a Lesson From Haiti
The devastation happening in Haiti is not only heartbreaking, but also a real eye-opener for every person in every country. When the unthinkable happens, are you really prepared? Is your country, state, city or town prepared for a massive catastrophe? Hurricane Katrina showed us that even with all of our preparation and training, many areas ravaged by the hurricane were not ready to deal with calamity on such a large scale.
While an emergency at your self-storage facility likely won’t affect thousands or be nearly as devasting, you can learn several lessons from such big disasters, including the simplest one—be prepared. Do you have an emergency plan for fires, crime, floods, hurricanes or other catastrophic events? A written plan that everyone in the company knows and understands? Communication is a key to dealing with emergencies and if the manager and owner aren’t on the same page, expect chaos.
In the case of a fire, do you know what steps to take beyond calling 911? What will you tell the tenants affected by the fire? What information will you relay to the media? How will you keep day-to-day operations going while you clean up and rebuild? If you’re not sure, you need to be. In this article, ISS columnist Linnea Appleby offers sound advice on preventing a facility fire, and coping with one if it does happen.
One of the biggest obstacles for the Haitians is lack of resources. The country simply doesn’t have the medical supplies and staff, food and shelter, or even adequate police and military forces to deal with such a disaster.
Does your facility have the resources it needs to cope with an emergency? Would your facility be able to function if, for example, your computer system was down? Could you accept payments, write receipts or even rent a unit? Computer failures do happen, and you can’t simply close up shop with a smile and a “come back tomorrow.” Learn how to operate your store without a computer. Industry veteran Jim Chiswell addresses this topic in No-Computer Disaster Plan: Operating Self-Storage Without Technology.
Finally, we can’t dismiss the human factor of this tragedy. Despite the lack of search and rescue teams or other trained personnel, many people were still pulled from the rubble—by regular folks. They banned together in a time of need to help one another.
Self-storage facilities across the country have shown their giving nature by offering free storage units to local causes, victims of natural disasters, or raising money for charitable organizations. Getting involved in your community brings a sense of togetherness and goodwill. And while it can be a marketing strategy, it’s really just the right thing to do. Your community is your customer base. If you’re not sure how to get involved, read these articles from the ISS archives:
Marketing Through Community
Attracting Self-Storage Tenants by Connecting With Community
You can also chime in on Self-Storage Talk, the best forum in the industry. There are several threads regarding all of the topics above, including a running thread on Haiti and how you can help.