Writing this month is Volunteer Emergency Support Team (VEST) member, Yeme Mehari. Nonprofits and Businesses alike can learn a lot from her experience.
Yeme Mehari’s Story
As a young adult living in Northern Virginia, my time revolves around mainly work, school and having a good time with friends. Emergency Preparedness was a topic I had never learned or even thought about tackling; to me the concept of disaster preparedness was the responsibility of the Red Cross. Sure we have some natural disasters in Northern VA, but how it connected to my personal life or how I should prepare myself for them, well they were thoughts that never flickered in my mind. I spent half my life in Ethiopia (its in East Africa) where it only rained or hailed, but nothing more therefore I grew into the habit of thinking natural disasters would not happen. Inevitably all the items I needed like snow shovel, snow salt, and bottled water would be sold out; because I was one who would wait until after the disaster (i.e. blizzard or hurricane) to shop for necessary and essential items.
This all changed in 2012 when I started working for Doorways for Women and Families, a local nonprofit dedicated in preventing violence and ending homelessness in Arlington County. As a volunteer and now an employee, training consisted of Emergency Preparedness Policy ranging from fires to hurricanes and earthquakes. Additionally, as a member of team I helped prepare the emergency preparedness kits; comprised of first aid kits, flashlights, bottles of water, hygiene products, diapers, blankets, and food. The kits are regularly inventoried to insure nothing has been removed or whether the products have expired.
The Director of HR and the Facilities Manager have created Doorway’s user friendly emergency preparedness guide for all employees to follow. The guide is broken down into different response protocols based on the type of disasters that may occur. Drills have been implemented and performed for employees to become familiar with response protocols and procedures essential to the emergency preparedness guide.
The resources and tools provided by the Arlington County’s Office of Emergency Management has allowed Doorways the ability to apply the necessary steps in case of impacting emergencies that would disrupt day to day operations. Examples include; having extra clothing and bed sheets available for the possibility to sleepover at work and the establishment of an on-call policy to make sure staffers can mobilize in a prompt and safe manner.
Since working with Doorway’s, I have understood the importance of having a personal plan, the importance of rehearsing and improving plans is essential to being prepared for the unexpected.