By Jim Sharp
When I was first asked to write a brief story about “why we do what we do,” I thought “Well, that’s easy enough – this is my chosen profession. It’s how I earn a living and support my family.” And that’s accurate, at least superficially so, but there’s a lot more to it.
Why do I do what I do? Why do I travel, often for days at a time, away from my family? Why do I maintain a heavy public speaking schedule? Why do I, at my own expense, continue to attend seminars, conferences, and training courses? I could have stayed in the public sector of Emergency Management. I could easily earn more money in the private sector as a member of someone’s enterprise risk management or business continuity team.
What, exactly, was I thinking when I started this business…?
I was thinking it mattered. I still think it matters. No, I do more than that – I believe that what I do matters. I believe it makes a difference.
From time to time I get some push-back on that. I’ve had people tell me face-to-face that one person simply cannot make a difference in overall emergency preparedness. The need is just too great; the potential for loss of life and damage to property is just too high. Even people in positions of power and authority can’t make a big picture difference, so what makes me think I can? First of all, some of those people are right. Very few of us have the ability, on our own, to change the big picture outcome.
But what if you could change the small picture…
What if you could do something to make the outcome of an emergency or disaster better for a neighborhood, a business, or even a family – would that not be worth the effort? I believe it is. I speak to thousands of people every year: kids in school, school faculty, first responders, chambers of commerce, philanthropic organizations, you name the group and I’ll gladly talk with them. When I talk to a room full of 4th graders about severe weather safety, if even one of them goes home that day and tells their parents what the presentation was about, and that starts a conversation resulting in that family being even a little better prepared than they would have been otherwise, that’s a win! If after a Chamber of Commerce presentation about continuity of operations even one of those businesses starts the process that results in their being better prepared to stay in business (and keep their employees working), that’s a win. When we donate emergency supplies (weather alert radios, smoke detectors, flashlights, etc.) to struggling families who need but cannot necessarily afford those things, when we talk about Main Street Terrorism with School Resource Officers who perhaps decide to re-asses the type and level of threat they may face, those are wins. And that’s why we do what we do…