Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us

by Dave Robinson

Dave Robinson

Originally published September 10, 2012

Everybody likes to poke fun at the government, especially the post office. I have worked for the Postal Service for over 30 years and have heard all the horror stories, complaints and “suggestions.” And yes, I admit, we do make mistakes, but we also do lots of things right. One of the things that we do well is keeping the mail moving when nothing else seems to be.

When Hurricane Katrina simply wiped some post offices off their foundations and filled others with water and debris, the Postal Service was one of the very first agencies to respond quickly and kept the mail moving in areas while other government services were paralyzed for days, and in some cases, weeks.

Each year every postmaster is required to complete a Continuation Of Operations Plan (C.O.O.P.). This plan lists the personnel who are capable of providing leadership in an emergency, alternate post office in the area if your local office is somehow rendered unusable, and a plan to keep the mail flowing as much as possible. For those of us on the South Coast of Oregon, keeping the mail moving to and from the region will depend on the bridges remaining in service and the roads being open, which in the event of an earthquake may or may not be realistic. The experts tell us a major quake will isolate us for several weeks due to closed roads and bridges. That will affect the trucks which transport our mail as well. Limited mail service could possibly be handled by airplane or helicopter until the roads are again made passable. While I’m on the topic, your grocer’s trucks won’t be able to get through either. Experience in other areas has taught us that grocery store shelves empty out within hours of a major event. I’m not here to scare you, but you really do need to be putting aside some groceries.

For those who receive medication by mail, this is another matter to consider. Connecting with your doctor to arrange an extra supply of needed prescriptions would be something you may want to discuss on your next visit.

Back to C.O.O.P., if you own a business, do you have a plan to continue operations without power? If an event happens during mid-workday and your employees can’t get home, is your workplace set up to provide for their needs until they can get home? I realize this is taking the conversation to a higher level, but if you’re serious about being ready, these are questions you need to ask yourself. This would be a good topic of discussion for your next staff meeting. Asking, and finding answers for, the hard questions now will lessen some of the hard decisions you may have to make when the time comes.

As always, contact me with questions or comments at disasterprep.dave@gmail.com.

Note: Dave Robinson is Bandon's Postmaster and has worked for the postal service for 30 years. He has a background in law enforcement, served in the Air Force in Vietnam, worked nine years for the Coos County Sheriff's Department, and serves on the Myrtle Point School Board, where he lives.

additional columns by Dave Robinson