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  • Writer's pictureErika Andresen

It's Getting Hot in Herre

I teach Emergency Management to graduate students. I am ashamed to say I was today days old when I learned that although I teach (as does the text) that heat events are a natural disaster that can cause a lot of harm, they are currently NOT considered a "disaster" for FEMA's purposes. Why does this matter at all, but especially for business continuity? First, let's talk about heat. It's no shock that every summer feels warmer than the last and the weather patterns are shifting that result in different conditions - hotter, dryer, stickier depending on where you live. It's a known fact that heat waves across the planet kill people every year - usually the elderly and poor. Why them? A mixture of stress on the body as well as an inability to afford cooling instruments like air conditioning. Or the money to pay for the increased use of power. A bigger draw on the system for a record number of days in an even bigger area is going to cause more power outages. What else does the heat do? Heat has a direct impact on commerce. Does everyone remember last summer when the heat was so bad along with the lack of rain that shipping along rivers was greatly impacted? They needed to send less ships with less cargo (cargo weighs down ships in water that is more shallow than it usually is; shallow water means it isn't deep enough to run ships other than single file). That's just shipping - the river cruises in Europe suffered greatly as well for the same reason - less of a river to cruise along. Now that you know a little more about what heat can do not just to the community but impact your business (supply chain, power outages), let's talk about why the "Extreme Heat Emergency Act" matters to you as a business owner. FEMA is a government agency that gets its funding from Congress via DHS. In order to spend money, it has to fall within a specific qualifiers. Arizona's governor cannot call up FEMA and ask for assistance for a prolonged heat event that kills people, but New York can for snow, because blizzards and cold events are part of an actual designated "disaster." This unleashes funding. If you can't call it a disaster, you can't get the money. Here is why it matters to you. There is a $5,000 grant (the Readiness for Resiliency Program) given to small businesses to assist with recovery after a disaster who 1) have a business continuity plan and 2) register with the group BEFORE a disaster happens. The disaster area needs to include the business. There are a lot of businesses that would be greatly impacted negatively by a heat event. This is why Emergency Management and Business Continuity fit so well together. They strive for the same ends and are impacted by the same means.

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