Putting together an emergency plan is one of those things we tend to put off for that day when ‘we've got a bit more time'.
However, if you are like many people, that day rarely comes, and the next thing you know, a situation arises and we are scrambling around to make it right for our guests.
It may be you think it's a waste of time – why spend valuable time and money in preparing for something that may never happen?
In fact, it's a fairly simple and inexpensive process that will give you peace of mind, and confidence your guests will be safe and comfortable whatever may arise.
1. Brainstorm the worst things that could happen that might impact your guests. From a minor power outage to extreme weather bringing down trees and preventing them from leaving the property or making outgoing calls. When we did this we also included a sudden outbreak of a deadly virus — that's how ‘worst case' we got!
2. Make lists of the things that would be needed for 24 hours; 48 hours and up to a week. Our lists included bottled water, powdered milk, toilet paper etc.
3. Write a Guest Emergency Guide that includes instructions for using gas-powered items such as lamps, cooking equipment, crank radios etc. Think what it would be like without power for a significant period.
4. Create a ‘What to do in an Emergency' document and place a copy in your Welcome Guide and post one on the inside of a storage cupboard. Include emergency contact numbers for local emergency services; as well as all your contact details. Make it very clear if you don't want these to be used in normal situations.
5. Put together a Power Outage Kit that includes a crank radio, flashlights with batteries stored separately; and the items you noted on your lists in point #2. Use a plastic tote, pack it up, seal and label it appropriately with a note to say when it can be opened. Add that a fee of $30 (or so) will be charged if it is opened in non-emergency situations. This prevents the likelihood of guests resorting to the kit when they run out of toilet paper!
6. Consider providing an emergency provisions kit to include canned food, packets of rice and pasta and packet soups. If you use the property yourself, you may be more inclined to do this, but it's a fairly inexpensive way of ensuring your guests are comfortable in any period of extended occupancy. Label as above!
7. Think about how the property will be heated if the power is out. Make sure there is sufficient wood if you have a wood stove — keep an area separate where you can clearly show emergency wood bundles. Once again let guests know there will have to pay if the pile is used in a non-emergency situation.
8. Consider installing a generator. This not only makes your guests lives easier; it will also give you more confidence that they will be safe in the event of a power out. Less risk of candles and gas lamps being overturned. Your insurance company will probably offer a small discount too.
9. Part of your Emergency Plan should be a cancellation/curtailment policy so you don't get into arguments with guests who demand refunds if they are without power for two hours. Consider several different scenarios — power out in summer will bring different impact than in winter; loss of refrigeration is important in hot climates whereas loss of air conditioning may be something guests just have to cope with.
10. Share your plan with everyone who is involved with the property, including caretakers. In a scenario where you are not available to deal with a problem, there should be a secondary contact who is aware of your planned procedures in an emergency situation.