Kaikoura Earthquake - Points for Businesses to Consider

As we all know the Kaikoura is a major earthquake and it has not only done significant damage to the East coast of the South Island but Wellington has also been severely shaken.

Having been involved with many disaster events the following advice has been learnt from both practical experience and examination of past disasters.

Managing People

  • Keep your staff informed

We all know how important staff are to our business, to quote Richard Branson “If you look after your staff, they'll look after your customers. It's That Simple.

Keep them informed.  Set up SMS blast groups on WhatsApp, Facebook, email etc. to keep them informed.  If you are using social media be careful what you put up as the news media do proactively search it for “news”.

  • Offer Help to your Staff

If you can, offer help to your staff to get their family lives back to normal.  Sure this is outside the normal requirements for a business but staff will welcome it, as after all, our staff are part of our “family”.  If you do not have time to do this personally, assign someone with good practical skills to work with them.  The fact that your business offered assistance will be appreciated.

  • Look for uncovered skills within your staff.

Staff normally only show one set of skills at work.  You may find that some have uncovered hobbies or skills which are of great benefit.  For example, they may have a four-wheel drive or a trail bike that can get through difficult roads.  Or they may have radio skills, have tents or other equipment that could help.

  • Make sure your Staff are keep healthy

We note the Canterbury Health is advising that there is a risk of water borne diseases.  Listen to their advice and make sure your staff is made aware.  Maybe someone can supply a gas burner to those without to boil water.

Also the risk of food poisoning can increase if refrigeration has failed or been compromised.  Food poisoning is dangerous and I would recommend using the old adage “if in doubt, throw it out”.

  • Watch for signs of Stress

People show stress many different ways. Some will go quiet; some will cry; some will flare up and “explode”.  Expressing stress is a good thing.  Don’t take any of it personally.  The ones to watch for are the ones that go quiet, will not talk about the events and seek solitude.  Try and assign a buddy to these people and give them someone to talk to.  You may need to offer personal counselling for them.  Sometimes people do not realise they are in trouble and they should be encouraged to seek professional advice.

  • Manage your staff

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You will find different reactions from your staff.  Some will ride through the event and rise to the occasion.  Others will have great difficulty dealing with it.  For those who rise to the occasion the greatest danger for them is that they will work long hours and get excessively tired.  Take a firm hand with them and demand that they take a break, get a rest and give them a time you expect them to return to work.

  • Finally Manage yourself

One of the big lessons that came out of the Christchurch Earthquake is that many organisations flew in extra Management, Office Managers and other key business personnel.  The local Manager will have a horrendous work load to deal with, have also experienced a major event, and have to deal his or her own family issues.  The imported staff could focus on the business recovery in a clear logical fashion.  It is a sign of a good manager when he or she asks for help.  Tired managers make mistakes and can “flare up” when very tired, only to regret it later.

Remember – people come first.