Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Natural Disaster Training: Are you prepared?

September 19, 2010

The recent tsunami tragedy brings natural disasters to the forefront. Not since biblical times have we seen a disaster that took so many lives.

An incident such as this brings up a topic that may have been avoided in your recent employee training sessions: What have you instructed your employees to do in the event of a natural disaster?

Do our employees know what to do if an unthinkable natural or unnatural disaster occurs while they’re on the job? Are we doing enough as employers to protect our people?

Challenge yourselves to be prepared for emergencies. Start with the following tips.

Defining an emergency
What might we consider emergency situations? Floods, tornados, hurricanes, terrorists, power outages caused by storms, and total blackouts similar to what happened in New York City?

Surely, many janitors were cleaning their buildings when the blackout occurred. How did they respond? Did they have the necessary training to know what they needed to do during the blackout?

For a gauge of how prepared your company will be in the event of a natural disaster, answer the following question: How many janitorial closets or company vehicles have a flashlight?

What a precious commodity in darkness! A simple flashlight could save lives. Doesn’t it make perfect sense to have flashlights on our maid carts, in our cleaning caddies, and in our janitorial closets in case of a power outage?

Lack of preparation can be fatal
Years ago, a retail toy store required all janitorial contractors to do lock-ins at night while they were cleaning their stores. In the morning, a manager would open up the store and let the janitor out. The reasoning was security issues, because the thought was the janitor might try to steal merchandise (although, buying a close circuit video surveillance system would have eliminated the lock-in).

The lock-in proved to be a fatal mistake when a 50-year-old janitorial employee suffered a heart attack and no help was on-site. The manager found the janitor dead at the store upon arrival.

Do you instruct your employees how to handle an emergency such as a fellow employee suffering a heart attack on the job? Do you teach the symptoms? If so, is there someone they could call, or do they have a two-way radio or cell phone that could clue a supervisor in that something is wrong? A cell phone or two-way radio could save lives.

Their survival is your livelihood
It’s times like these that remind us how important it is to have a survival kit for emergencies. Supplying your employees with survival kits is a wise thing to do on the job site or in their company vehicles.

Most survival kits’ food and water have five-year shelf lives; this can save lives if the need arises. (Please see "Survival kit for employee vehicles" and "Office-supply survival kit".)

Emergency preparedness kits can be found for sale on the American Red Cross website (, and many other websites. Prices range from $40 to $100, and they come in easy-to-carry packaging, such as a backpack, five-gallon pail (that converts into a toilet), and a belt bag that zips. Each member of my family has an emergency preparedness kit for their car, and we have a six-person preparedness kit for our home.

It is a good idea to purchase mini belt bags (pouches) that zipper and contain main emergency staples to leave in janitorial closets.

The key to saving lives will always be proper education and the survival tools needed to get through the crisis.

Laura Dellutri is a successful building service contractor, public speaker, author and cleaning consultant who is fondly known as "The Healthly Housekeeper" and has appeared numerous times on HGTV, The Discovery Channel, and all the major television networks. She welcomes feedback, so send e-mail to or Visit her website at