I am writing this on Sunday September 11, 2011, the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States. The television stations, the newspapers, radio shows, the Internet and even the comics pages are all filled with remembrances. With friends there have been conversations on what was remembered from that day. I knew no one directly involved in any of the three acts, but I have a memory that left an emotional impact. From it I learned a lesson in safety that came from acts of terror.
In the days that followed the collapse of the Trade Tower there were many stories of heroism and survival among the devastating stories of death. The one that made an impact on me came from the president of a small company located in the first tower. He told how just days before the attack he and the rest of the company had practiced a fire drill. They had practiced abandoning the office and walking down over 40 flights of stairs and helping people who needed help. How fortunate for them that they had. When the first plane hit and the alarms went off they knew exactly what to do, only this time it was for real. Everyone, because they had practiced, made it out safely. Not only that but they were able to assist two wheelchair bound individuals who would have otherwise not been able to escape. I remember him saying how grateful he was that he did not have to call a single employee’s family to tell them they had lost a loved one.
I unfortunately do not remember the name of the president or the name of his company. I wish I did. But the lesson I learned is one I pass on to every class I teach and client I work with. The lesson is that it is vital to have an emergency plan and it is vital to practice it. Employees need to know where to go, how to escape, where to meet after they have escaped, or what to do if they cannot escape. Managers need to understand that they are responsible for accounting for everyone for whom they are responsible. This is important because firefighters need to know. They will attempt to rescue those who have not been accounted for. I don’t know about you but I would hate to put a firefighter’s life at risk because I had not properly accounted for all my employees.
I tell people one of the best tributes you can make to the memory of September 11th is to pull out your emergency plan, review it to make sure it is up to date and then to practice it. Learn the lesson taught to us by that small company 10 years ago.
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