Last month, Jami Gibson had an excellent article on how emergency preparedness is critical for individuals and families. It got me thinking about how important emergency preparedness is for economic development organizations (EDO’s). Over the past 15 years, Iowa has experienced multiple floods, significant tornado outbreaks and a derecho in the middle of a pandemic. We at the Institute for Decision Making have assisted a number of EDO’s after they were impacted by a disaster.

Parkersburg, Iowa and Parkersburg Economic Development (PED) came to mind first. On May 25, 2008, the community was hit by an EF-5 tornado. The impact was massive with 7 deaths, 70 individuals injured, 22 businesses destroyed, and 300 houses destroyed. PED and City lost all of their records when City Hall was destroyed. They had backed up their networks, but those backups were onsite and destroyed. A few weeks later much of Iowa experienced a 500 year flood that crippled large and small communities for days.

A number of years later I was asked to share at a Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER) conference some lessons we learned that could benefit EDO’s.  Here are a few of those lessons:

  • Store as much as can be stored in the cloud so it can be accessed from anywhere
  • EDO’s should store the following in the cloud:
    • Maps of the physical location of businesses in your community
    • Contact information for local business owners and property owners
    • Continuity of operations information such as contact information for local elected officials, local government staff and utility providers
  • Local governments should store in the cloud information such as emergency policies and procedures (i.e. closing areas, bridges, or streets; evacuation; erecting floodwalls), public records (codes and ordinances, financial and debt information), information on sharing arrangements with nearby local governments for such things as borrowing equipment and accessing supplies, personnel and volunteers.
  • Encourage your local businesses to maintain virtually information such as workforce contacts, sales and financial information, buyer/supplier information, and other data and information which might be required when applying for disaster assistance.

Hopefully an EDO and community will never be impacted by a disaster, but it is better to be prepared for something that never happens as opposed to being unprepared if it happens.