Promising Practices Promising PracticesPromising Practices
A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

When it Comes to Preparedness, There’s No Time for Fighting

Image via Karen Sarraga/

My husband and I took very different approaches to dealing with (or not dealing with) Hurricane Sandy and I’m curious if you had similar conversations in the days leading up to the storm:

An excerpt of our conversation:

  • Me: “honey, we need to prepare for the storm.”
  • Him: “we’ll be fine”
  • Me: “um, how can you be so sure?”
  • Him: “because we’re not going to be affected – everyone is overreacting.”

(At this point in our conversation I began to get agitated…)

  • Me: “you know, no one ever thinks something bad will happen to them.”
  • Him: silence…
  • Me: “what if a tree comes through the roof of our house, our basement and first floor floods, and we have to take the dogs and evacuate?”
  • Him: “that isn’t going to happen.”
  • Me: “well what if it does?”
  • Him: “we go to the neighbor’s house and if we cannot go there we go to your parents.”

(My agitation grows…)

  • Me: “ok, fine. Well, if something bad happens, you have to deal with it.”
  • Him (passive aggressively): “I would be the one dealing with it anyway.”
  • Me (indignantly): “I’m not talking to you about this anymore.”

Despite the federal government and public transportation being shut down in DC, my husband decided to go to work (only to return 2 hours later when his office shut down). I, on the other hand, went about doing my own preparations.

I went to Home Depot and stopped at the grocery store for more reinforcements. I withdrew cash from the bank and topped off my gas tank. I backed my car into the carport so the driver’s side door was closest to our house. I proceeded to move deck furniture inside, threw away the dead summer plants still on the deck, and then created a one-stop preparedness station on our kitchen table.

I collected batteries, flashlights, duck tape, lighters, towels, heavy-duty plastic sheeting, tarps; you get the idea. I created alternate sleeping quarters for us to shelter, somewhat outside the path of destruction should one of the many trees in our yard fall on the house. I had a change of clothing at hand should I need to dress and evacuate in the middle of the night. I felt prepared.

By the time we went to sleep the trees were waving, the wind was howling and the rain was coming down hard. We were watching news report after news report about major destruction up and down the east coast. I was mentally preparing for flooding and a tree to come crashing through the house. I was ready to scramble to safety and salvage what we could under the deluge of hurricane force winds and pelting rain.

What actually happened? I slept soundly in our makeshift bed. I awoke to find our yard covered in leaves but otherwise free of debris. There was no flooding, no tree through our roof, just some extra water dripping through the carport and reminding us it’s time to tackle some long overdue home maintenance projects.

So, on this one I thought, my husband got to be right. But when I turned on the TV and saw what Sandy had done in places like New York and New Jersey, it was clear my husband wasn’t right—we were simply lucky. Sandy spread unprecedented destruction, and sadly, loss of life up and down the eastern seaboard. A matter of a few hundred miles was all that spared us from this unfathomable damage.

The point is to remember that:

  • It’s better to resemble the doomsday prepper or drama-queen and over-prepare than to jeopardize your safety (or your life) and regret not taking steps to prepare.
  • Fight about whether to prepare (if you must), but if you are on the losing end of the preparedness argument – don’t give in. Do what you can to get ready.
  • If after the event you find you are on the winning end of the “whether to prepare” argument – be gracious about it and don’t gloat.
  • If you are not negatively impacted (this time), be grateful and consider yourself lucky. Then do something, even if it's small, like making a donation to the Red Cross, to help those who did not fare so well.

How did you manage during Hurricane Sandy?

(Image via Karen Sarraga/

Sarah Agan is a regular contributor to Excellence in Government. She has spent the past 17 years working with clients across the federal government with a focus on helping individuals and organizations thrive.

Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.