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The Chamber is Prepared

Christina Meek sat down for a little Q&A with Chamber Director of Operations, Eric Elam, to discuss how he has prepared the Chamber for disasters and how you can prepare, too.

How do you prepare the chamber for possible disasters?

Chamber staff evacuate for Shake Out 2011 DrillWe formed a Business Continuity Committee with one staff member representing each department. Each department documented their critical business functions, listed important contacts and can carry out critical functions separately in the event of an emergency. Through coordination with local organizations like the Mid-South Chapter of the American Red Cross and the Memphis Shelby County Emergency Management Agency we are able to offer First Aid, CPR, and AED training and Community Emergency Response Team training to our staff. Annually, during the month of September, we test our emergency plans by conducting drills. Each year in April, we also participate in the Great American Shake Out, a Central U.S. earthquake preparedness drill.

What kind of disasters is the Chamber prepared for?

We have identified several threats to our business. Some examples we have prepared for are: fire, power outages, chemical releases, severe weather (including severe thunder storms, windstorms, tornados, ice storms and now flooding) and a major earthquake. Once you know what could affect your business operations you can start to plan against them. We are prepared with enough emergency supplies in our office to sustain the staff for 7-10 days. We have plans to communicate with our staff during and after an emergency. Each staff member has a “Go Kit” at their desk, knows the procedures for evacuation and where to meet outside our office building. Our goal is to have the chamber up and running within 72 hours after a catastrophic event.

What role does the Chamber play when Memphis has a disaster?

The Chamber is listed as a “support agency” in the Memphis and Shelby County Emergency Plan.

The Chamber can be supportive by providing statistical data on the Memphis metro area including GIS mapping. Our role in recovery would be to advise and assist area businesses in their recovery efforts by providing information on available resources and contacts.

During the May flooding, our local EMA officials and first responders worked for weeks to alert and respond to the community. They deserve the highest praise for their loyalty and commitment to our community’s safety. Few people may know that our Emergency Response Team was activated for the first time ever with a meeting Tuesday morning, a full week before the flooding began. Some may recall the days leading up to the flooding as the Chamber’s messaging changed to flooding preparedness tips. We alerted our membership through all of our communication channels: our website, email and social media. During the flooding event we had staff members attending the Emergency Operations Center briefings daily to get the latest information and to provide our support as needed. By utilizing our GIS Mapping capabilities our research department identified the area businesses that may be affected by the flood and contacted them. After the event, we worked with FEMA and SBA to poll our members that were affected by the flooding and alerted the business community of available federal assistance.

Is it a really complicated process getting your business prepared for a disaster? How do I get started?

Elam leads Chamber staff through emergency protocolPreparing your business is not complicated at all. The hardest part is taking the first step. I would recommend any plan begin at the top as a directive from the owner or president of the company. For any continuity plan to work it must have the full support of the company’s leadership. Creating a plan does not have to cost a lot of money either. There are tons of free resources available online and in our local community.

We utilized the Institute for Business and Home Safety’s on-line tutorial to walk our committee through the planning process. ( After a plan is created it’s important that everyone in the organization knows their part and the information is reviewed, updated and tested annually.

Posted: 9/20/2011 2:33:00 PM | with 0 comments
Filed under: business, chamber, disaster, drill, earthquake, elam, emergency, memphis, operations, out, prepare, ready, shake

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The latest news from the Greater Memphis Chamber. For more information, contact Director of Communications Christina Meek at (901) 543-3504 ( or Communications Specialist Jenny C. Fish at (901) 543-3558 (