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Fast Forward

Are you prepared for future disasters?

Hope Stepha. Photo/Amy Spangler
Hope Stepha. Photo/Amy Spangler

We can't predict the future, of course, but that's no excuse for not thinking ahead.

Since the Boston Marathon bombing, there's been a lot of analysis focusing on company communication, because of the way the city abruptly shut down.

Are you prepared to communicate quickly and accurately with your employees if you have to do something as simple as telling them to stay home? A lot of Boston businesses weren't. You can learn from their mistakes.

Other Boston businesses are worried because they failed to purchase the extra insurance required to cover losses caused by terrorism. When is the last time you said, "That can't happen to me. That can't happen here?" The flood of 2011, maybe? We all like to think we're safe from abnormal events.

I'm better prepared than I once was, because once, I wasn't.

I was working the afternoon shift the day an E/F5 tornado roared through the county where my newspaper was based. Here's what I learned the hard way, and I wasn't alone: Don't let your gas tank ever fall to empty, planning to fill up "on the way home." Keep some reasonably fresh bottled water in the house at all times. It's a good idea to always have some canned food in the pantry — baked beans, fruit, pasta and the like, anything that can be eaten cold.

And know where your can opener is. Discovering your flashlight batteries should have been replaced a year ago is not the best time to be hunting for it.

Today I would add, keep your cellphone fully charged at all times.

Understand that aid is going to go to the people who need it most, and if you didn't lose your home, that's not you. In the meantime, grocery stores, if they are open, have bare shelves, the all-night convenience store down the street isn't stocked either and the gas pumps aren't working. You could be on your own for a while, and leaving to visit relatives in the next state isn't always an option.

Worst of all, you can't help the recovery effort, because you didn't prepare.

Want more tips? Go here.

This year's tornado season started off abnormally quiet, and Central Pennsylvania rarely sees major twisters anyway, but we do get floods, severe thunderstorms and destructive winter storms. No business is immune from fire, accident, even acts of sabotage.

And then there's what happened in Boston.

Think forward and be ready.

The week ahead

This is National Public Service Recognition Week and, on Tuesday, the Central Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Society for Public Administration and the Shippensburg University's Pi Alpha Alpha National Honor Society are co-hosting an event on the SU campus.

Meanwhile, the Gettysburg Adams chamber is celebrating its Small Business Appreciation Week with a number of seminars around the county: unemployment compensation law (Monday); access to capital (Tuesday); effective time management (Wednesday); health care reform (Thursday).

On Tuesday, Gov. Tom Corbett is scheduled to open the Expo at the York Economic Alliance's Networking Night at Toyota Arena.

The topic Wednesday in Harrisburg is politics, when Harrisburg Young Professionals host a mayoral debate at The Hilton Harrisburg (to be broadcast live on ABC27 from 7 to 8:30 p.m.) The primary is May 21.

And speaking of politics, the governor is supposed to have a news conference Tuesday on pension reform, and the legislature is back in session.

The week can wrap up on a lighter note, if you're so inclined. On Friday evening, Lititz celebrates its designation as "America's Coolest Small Town."

Since the month is still young, it will be a quiet week for benchmark economic reports. Look for consumer credit on Monday, and weekly jobless claims and wholesale inventories on Thursday.

The rewind

Our Inside Business focus back in January was Disaster Planning and Recovery. There's a useful quiz about insurance and a story about how weather affects insurance premiums regardless of where you live.

Did you get as excited as the stock market did Friday when the April jobs report came out? Here's why the apparent good news really wasn't.

And speaking of forecasts, here's a final thought for the week: What CEO of a major electronics device designer/manufacturer thinks tablets are a passing fad? (Hint: His company used to be the market leader.)

Hope Stephan is editor of the Central Penn Business Journal. The goal of Fast Forward is to give you a jump on the week ahead. Contact her at and follow her on Twitter, @hstephan.

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