When Your Office Might Burn Down

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The recent Northern California fires were frightening.  The damage is heartbreaking and in the area, no one is untouched.  I know because I have an office in the Calistoga area, which was heavily damaged.   The office did not burn but as the fire approached decisions were at hand.  What is important?  What should I take when evacuated?

With the benefit of a few weeks of perspective and no smoke in the air it is useful to reflect on some thoughts that rattle around when all hell is breaking loose.

Things you notice and consider when your office might burn down…

  • Relationships matter. Relationships are more important than anything else I can think of. Take a moment to introduce yourself to your neighbor – at your office or at home. Neighbors can really step up to help each other even if the acquaintance is new.
  • We are all spoiled.  Or at least most of us are. Firefighters don’t worry about what kind of espresso machine is in the break room. The next time you see a first responder – buy them coffee. Or lunch. They deserve it.
  • Teamwork and communication are skills necessary for any type of success but both are essential during emergencies. Always have a plan. Make sure at home or at work you have a plan, and communicate it.
  • The shelf life of old PowerPoint presentations is less than an hour. Any hard copies can be thrown away with most documents that have been saved in a stack on the credenza.
  • Lucite cubes that commemorate a corporate event are not important.
  • When the power goes out, there is nothing: no Internet, no elevator, no lights, no anything.  Electricity is an undervalued resource. Try not to take it for granted.
  • Possessions can be replaced. It is not worth trying to sort through possessions in the face of a fire.
  • Giving back is important. Give back, to neighbors, co-workers, or those in need. You never know when you’ll end up on the other side of the fence.
  • Fire fighters are always welcome and however much money they make, it’s not enough.

Emergencies can bring out the best in people, be they corporate or natural.  The spirit of being compassionate should be a part of the workplace too.

In the US, the Thanksgiving Holiday is approaching.  It is the one day a year when we take time and try to be thankful.  We should be thankful for all the first responders who are truly brave men and women.  Be thankful for your family and friends and that you are alive with them to share the holiday.  Be thankful for what you have every single day.  Be thankful for colleagues and a meaningful career.  In the last month I learned to be even more thankful.

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