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I’m biding my time, stuck behind a slow-moving tractor coming back from a job out of the city. It’s always like this once the farmers start working the fields hard in Lincolnshire, so I’ve got used to it. I’m moving at a steady 45-50 speed on the coast road so there’s no rush anywhere. Then something bizarre happens that scares me to death and gets me thinking about disaster management.

In my mirrors I spot an ambulance. It’s weaving its way through the traffic, back to Lincoln. After a while it’s directly behind me and is clearly in a hurry. We’re on a slow, sweeping left-hand bend and it’s plain to me that the ambulance driver can’t see what’s past me, and I have nowhere to pull over.

Then, unbelievably, it pulls out around me to overtake. There’s a whole procession coming the other way the driver couldn’t have seen. Into the mix is a traffic island, and a slip road with cars waiting to pull out. I’m waiting for the impact that I’m about to witness and wondering how I’ll avoid it all.

The lead, on-coming car, brakes hard to avoid the crash, and who knows what’s happening in the back of the ambulance. They’re oblivious to what’s about to happen in the outside world, as they battle to save a life, unaware they’re going to need their own treatment soon.

I’m shocked because the picture I’m seeing doesn’t make sense. It’s an ambulance, they’re supposed to be helping. It’s like seeing a fire engine ablaze, or a foul-mouthed vicar.

Unbelievably, the ambulance gets past me and the tractor, and miss the oncoming traffic and continues its life-saving journey. How would I have acted as the oncoming car? What would have happened at home, had there been an impact because I was in the mix? I’m close enough to the action and know I’ve dodged a bullet today. Immediately I’m thinking about disaster management. How would this have changed all our lives forever and practically, what happens next after a crash like this?

Time for disaster management

I drive a lot, I know this sort of thing is rare, and maybe it only felt like this too me. Maybe the ambulance driver knew what was happening, it was over in a flash. However, as a business owner, it got me thinking again about life after near-death. In the past I’ve worried alot about how things would unfold, should anything cause me to be out of the picture. I’d go through weeks of worry, but then months of ignorant bliss. As a young under-fifty-year-old, I should be confident of another ten years fit and healthy, but then something like this happens. Or, maybe a famous sub-fifty year old star dies suddenly, and it feels like those we grew up with have gone too early and were vulnerable again. After my recent ambulance near miss, I’ve started on my most ambitious disaster planning exercise yet.

Tim Ferris, the writer of the hugely successful ‘Four Hour’ series of books, talks about exploring the very worst that can happen, he calls it ‘Fear setting’. It involves writing our worst fears down, with a clear set of actions on how to manage the events. These actions would be either for myself, if I was still conscious, or my family if I wasn’t. So, over the next few weeks and months I’m going to take a weekly look at how I put a plan in place that would look everything, should anything happen.

Time to make a plan

This seems quite depressing, but, now that I’m finally serious about it, I feel so much more alive and prepared. There must be hundreds and thousands of business owners who have this similar fear. A life changing event can easily screw everything up, especially if our business relies on us for it to work.
So welcome to my journey for the next few months. From allowing access to bank accounts, to life insurance and practically, how to pay Simon and suppliers. Then long-term, what happens to the business once I’ve gone? At the end of the journey we’ll have a ‘Bad News Book’. It’s a book that we all hope isn’t opened for a very long time.

Do you have one of these books?
Do you have a disaster management plan?

Here we go.

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