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MEMA Home > Programs> Communication> News > From the Director for May: Open for Business?

From the Director for May: Open for Business?


May 11, 2010


At the beginning of May, in our tourist State, we look forward to Memorial Day as the unofficial beginning of summer. Seasonal businesses prepare to open, year-round service businesses prepare for trade to increase. The rest of us prepare for summer traffic!

So as we are all preparing for summer, it’s an appropriate time to ask, “Would my business be open today if I had been hit by a disaster last week, last month or last year?”

Maine’s economy is built on small business. But research shows that the smaller the business, the less likely it is that the business owner has done any sort of planning for emergencies. That’s a scary thought, because each community’s ability to “weather the storm” is dependent on the ability of its businesses to do the same.

Public Officials:

Meet with business owners regularly to talk about how collectively you can make your community more able to survive any emergency. Especially look at the ways you can quickly communicate with your businesses.

Start the connection by meeting with your local Chamber of Commerce or Board of Trade, or service clubs such as the Rotary or Kiwanis. You may be surprised at the interest you find in emergency preparedness, and the willingness to work with you to make your community more disaster-resilient.

This spring we saw the Cities of Augusta, Hallowell and Gardiner actively partner with their downtown businesses along the Kennebec River. Facing an imminent threat of flooding, town officials and business owners kept the lines of communication open, reviewed emergency procedures and tested warning systems. The threat did not materialize – this year, at least. But the shared concern brought about improvements in communication that will serve the communities well.


Of course, in an emergency you will be concerned about your family first. But the more prepared for emergencies you and they are, the sooner you will be able to do your part to keep your company open for business. Learn more about family emergency preparedness at Maine Prepares [LINK: ]

But also, ask your employer about your company’s emergency plans. And think about ways you and your co-workers can contribute to making those plans even better.

Business Owners:

This month’s topic is mostly about you. Ask yourself a few basic questions to see how ready you are for an emergency:

  • Do I know the kinds of risks present in my community?
  • Could I relocate my business temporarily if I had to?
  • Can I reach all my employees outside work hours?
  • Does my insurance cover everything I need it to?
  • Are my business records protected in case of a fire, flood or other disaster?
  • What would I do if the main route to get supplies and materials or to ship my products was cut off?
  • What would I do if my main supplier was hit by disaster and could not ship me raw materials? What if my biggest customer was disabled by a disaster?
  • Will my employees be able to report to work in a community emergency?

These are just a few questions at the heart of emergency planning. Chances are, you answered some of them “No”, I Don’t Know” or “We can do better.” If so, you have work to do.

Our Maine Prepares fact sheet: Business Preparedness: Getting Started is a good place to begin. There are other terrific, easy to use planning guides available:

Any of these tools will walk you through building an emergency plan that is practical for your business, and affordable to implement.

Involve your employees in the process so they understand the plan, and you will have the benefit of their good ideas. Meet with local officials so that you are clear on the community response you can expect, and they know how you intend to handle an emergency on your site.

Exercise your plan at least once a year. Even just talking through it, you will find areas that need to be updated or could be improved.

And then there is one more thing I’d ask you to consider: How can your business help your community weather the storm?

Maybe it’s as simple as offering your parking lot as a staging area for volunteers or emergency resources. Maybe it’s allowing flex time to your employees so that they can volunteer as firefighters, EMTs or Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) members.

Talk with your town officials today about how you can contribute to community preparedness, response and recovery. The sooner your town is open for business, the sooner you will be too.

As always, I'd like to know your thoughts.


Rob McAleer, Director, Maine Emergency Management Agency



Last update: 07/20/10