I recently returned from a vacation at the Grand Canyon where we had booked a two-night stay, including dinners at a historic lodge perched on the edge of the canyon with breathtaking views and easy access to hiking and other activities.

About an hour from our destination, around 5 p.m., we got a text message from the hotel restaurant advising us our dinner reservation had been canceled due to a power outage. Wondering whether this had impacted the hotel itself, I checked my messages to see whether we had heard from them — nothing there.

I promptly called the hotel to ensure that our accommodations were secure. The switchboard operator informed me that the hotel was closed and was not accommodating anyone that night. My desire to preserve our “once in a lifetime” experience kicked into overdrive and after several calls, I was finally transferred to somebody who let me know that an accidental repair failure had caused an electrical fire in the hotel resulting in total power loss.

They did not have a generator and had no idea when they would be able to reopen. While they knew they were displacing guests, they didn’t really seem to have any suggestions on what we should do or where we could stay, despite their management company operating several other lodging establishments in the park.

I cannot even begin to tell you the runaround we got from hotel management. It was clear they had not considered or planned for something like this. In fact, the direct excuse the general manager used was, “We’ve never had something like this happen before.” Rather than being mollified by this response, I was incensed.

However, after I cooled down, I recognized it as a learning opportunity to help businesses and organizations in our community be better prepared for similar types of occurrences.

We are emerging from a sweeping, extraordinarily disruptive pandemic that should have taught leaders that disaster planning is paramount. But really, we are all tired, ready to gather in person for fun and merriment and put the past behind us. I hate to kill the mood of the party, but the reality is that you never know when disaster is going to strike.

To that point, I sat on Gearhart’s Little Beach this past week and watched Tillamook Head burn. We are so lucky that the brave men and women responsible for containing and controlling that fire were able to, but had it not been so, it could have threatened lives, homes, businesses and transportation and devastated one of our region’s most spectacular natural attractions — core to the vitality of our tourism-based economy.

While some businesses and organizations surely had fire plans in place, the likelihood is that many more did not.

As a business adviser, I help leaders understand the risks that exist in their daily operations. I encourage they evaluate different scenarios and develop plans to support the safety and security of employees and customers, manage customer impact and protect their livelihood.

We talk about the importance of proactive customer and community communication so that their brand and reputation are preserved. We help them think about financial planning and insurance should their business be inoperable following an incident. This is called resiliency planning and it provides organizations an opportunity to develop policies, procedures and action plans to help mitigate impact or rebound more swiftly following a natural or human-caused hazardous event.

I encourage you to think about developing your own resiliency plan — for your business, your organization, or your home. No, not a lengthy document that you put on a shelf to collect dust. Instead, start by having conversations with employees, your insurance company, your family members and then put straightforward, easy to follow steps together for different scenarios.

An example of this would be to pick a different topic of risk management every month and design response plans for each. Some ideas to get you started are: fire, tsunami, power outage, a staff member or customer being seriously injured, key equipment malfunction, you being unable to work for more than a couple of days, robbery, credit card machine failure, internet loss and the list goes on.

If our Grand Canyon hotel company had performed similar planning, they would have been better prepared for a situation by having a generator on-site, ensuring that they had a plan to communicate with arriving guests and a list of potential other accommodations to reach out to. Or better yet, they would have secured rooms on our behalf.

Here in our community, we can look to Tillamook Head as a touchstone to remind us how fortunate we are to have avoided something more serious. There is no guarantee that we will be as lucky tomorrow — and the next incident doesn’t know that you need it to wait until after the holidays.

Jessica Newhall is the associate director of the Clatsop Community College Small Business Development Center.

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