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Red Cross helps businesses prepare for emergencies.

PROVIDING HEALTH AND safety training is a hallmark of The American Red Cross. The terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, prompted an expansion of the group's historical mission that is making inroads with service-based businesses in Arkansas and around the nation.

"We've been teaching CPR and first aid forever," said Candy Carey, executive director of the Greater Arkansas Chapter of the American Red Cross. "But in a post-9/11 environment, people have become a lot more aware of preparedness."

The recent kickoff of the Prepare Little Rock Campaign attracted 75 companies to improve emergency preparedness. The Red Cross is gearing up for an October launch in Fort Smith of its Prepare Western Arkansas Program.

Emergency preparedness ranges from coping with natural disasters (fire, flood, ice storms and such) to dealing with workplace injuries.

The Red Cross initiative covers forming an emergency preparedness plan, building a first aid/emergency kit, getting emergency training, encouraging trainees to further spread the program and giving blood.

The vision is to see the preparedness initiative make greater inroads with family, workplace, school and neighborhood safety.

The Red Cross also has put together a "Guide to Business Continuity Planning" CD-ROM, which provides comprehensive, step-by-step instructions to help a company:

* Address life safety issues.

* Minimize interruption to business and customers.

* Transition back to normal operations.

* Provide public and private agencies with information.

* Formalize a plan.

An overarching goal of the guide is helping a company position itself to remain operational or quickly return to business in the event of an emergency, whether the event is large or small.

"This is about taking care of your employees and your customers," Carey said.

The Red Cross has the goal of training at least 15 employees at each company in a 90-minute session. The program, which costs $450 and includes materials, can be scheduled most any time at a business or elsewhere.

The interactive presentation serves as a lifesaving primer with useful information that can be applied at home and on the job.

Training topics include how to deal with bleeding, shock, muscle and joint injuries, burns, warning signs of heart attack, stroke, and cardiac arrest.

Annual testing is encouraged with a company holding an exercise at least twice a year. One drill is typically announced to everyone while another is conducted as a surprise test.

"This will let you see how really well you're capable of responding," Carey said.

The emergency planning and training can be as basic or elaborate as a company is willing to devote time and resources to preparedness.

According to a July 19 Red Cross survey, respondents in Arkansas and 12 other southern states ranked personal disaster preparedness of high importance.

However, the same group rated itself as the least prepared compared to responses from western, midwestern and northeastern states.

Red Cross officials view the survey as an indication that Arkansas is fertile ground to help improve emergency preparedness.

"Inevitably, the unexpected will happen," Carey said.
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Title Annotation:nonprofit organizations
Author:Waldon, George
Publication:Arkansas Business
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 27, 2004
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