Is your business ready for disaster? Get a Ready Rating

I have talked a lot in the last several years about personal emergency preparedness. Its important that we all have the tools to take care of ourselves and our friends during a time of disaster.

But there is another facet of emergency preparedness that seldom gets addressed. In recent years, it was discovered that up to 40 percent of businesses fail after a natural or human-made disaster. One-third of businesses surveyed have no business continuity plan that would allow them to continue to serve their clients and attempt to return to predisaster service levels.

But when the American Red Cross asked businesses across the country what could be done to change those statistics, many of them had the same response: If someone could make it easy for me to be prepared, Id do it.

The Red Cross has launched a new, one-of-a-kind website to help both schools and businesses in Southwest Colorado with their emergency planning and preparedness efforts.

The Red Cross Ready Rating program offers free memberships to businesses, organizations and schools. Members can use the programs online checklist to measure their current preparedness efforts and receive customized feedback about how to improve their preparedness level.

This program was created to give businesses, organizations and schools an easy starting point so they can feel more confident about the safety of employees and students. Ready Rating is good for businesses and schools, good for employees and students and good for the Durango community.

The nationwide launch began in an eight-city pilot program in 2009 with a $2.1 million grant from Anheuser-Busch. Now, Sams Club is lending its support to the program by joining as a national sponsor and has provided $500,000 to help bring the program to additional cities. These donations have allowed the program to remain free for our communities.

The private self-assessment that you take online will be the first step your business or school can take to ensure it is ready for a disaster in the community. You will take a hazard vulnerability assessment that will help you understand possible threats to your facility or business and assess the possible impact a disaster will have. It then will guide you through an emergency-response plan that will help you create an action plan for before, during and after an emergency.

Implementation of your plan will help you integrate preparedness in your organizational culture. Not only will this program help your business or school, you also will help support the overall preparedness of the community.

If your business or school is interested in this vital program, you can sign on for a personalized preparedness survey at We also are happy to come speak to your organization in person to discuss how you be a part of the first emergency-readiness program of its kind. The time to prepare is now.

Cindi Shank is executive director of the Southwest Colorado chapter of the American Red Cross.