Preventing panic during an emergency.

How would you rate your organization’s emergency response plans? I wrote about this topic two years ago, sharing how the employer of one card professional had overlooked many details. I’m bringing the issue up again because of the recent news of water contamination in Corpus Christi, Texas. My parents-in-law spend the winter there, so I heard first-hand accounts of the situation. Does your organization have water contamination on its radar? The extent to which this type of disaster would affect your organization depends on your business, but it may have broader reach than you think. The only way to become more prepared for any situation is by completing needs assessments, as described below.  

Water Contamination

In the Corpus Christi area, the initial communications instructed citizens and businesses to not use water for anything, including bathing, because a chemical used in asphalt may have contaminated the water supply. The water still would not be safe even after boiling. In an office setting, this is manageable (at least in the short term), but many industries rely on wateragriculture; healthcare; manufacturing; and commercial kitchens in restaurants, schools, office cafeterias, etc. Imagine the impact at home and work.

Emergency Purchases

Everyone is competing for the same necessary items. Obviously, the most important one is bottled water. Other purchases include hand sanitizer; cleansing cloths/baby wipes; and disposable plates, cups, and so forth to prevent washing dishes in contaminated water.  

Planning Ahead

I contacted an AP professional who works for a senior care facility in Minnesota. She confirmed that her organization follows a state mandate to have an alternate source of water, so they have a contract with a local bottled water company. In short, they have to calculate their water needs (the quantity of water needed per resident per day) and the bottled water company has to be able to comply with those requirements. This brings us to needs assessments—the process of:

  • identifying possible scenarios that could affect your organization (e.g., natural disasters, fires, water contamination, etc.), and
  • determining what would be required for an emergency response and business continuity
No need for a panic button. Solid preparation now can help your organization effectively respond to an emergency.

No need for a panic button. Solid preparation now can help your organization effectively respond to an emergency.

Needs Assessments

Consider the following types of questions for different kinds of emergencies/disasters, as each one will likely require a unique response.

  • How would your organization be affected? Would it be business as usual for all employees or would you close for any length of time? Would you utilize a contingency site, if applicable?
  • What would your organization need to purchase?
  • Which vendor(s) would be able to meet your anticipated needs? Is it possible to set up related contracts now?
  • Who would be responsible for buying what is needed? Do they have a card today?
  • What will you need to do concerning card spend limits and MCC restrictions?
  • What will be the purchasing process? Ideally, you want to avoid having your buyers stand in long lines with citizens buying the same items.

If your organization has not addressed these kinds of things, it could be left scrambling if/when an emergency occurs. It is better to take the time now to plan ahead. Learn more... 


About the Author

Blog post author Lynn Larson, CPCP, is the founder of Recharged Education. With more than 15 years of Commercial Card experience, her mission is to make industry education readily accessible to all. Learn more

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Your disaster recovery plans deserve to be reassessed.

From a purchasing and payments view, is your organization prepared to respond to a disaster? What is the plan? Paula Cooper* realized her employer had overlooked many details. Could this be you?

Within the disaster plans, Paula’s organization had identified Purchasing Cards as the primary payment vehicle. Procurement staff would be responsible for the majority of emergency purchases; most already had a card. Paula, as the program manager, would simply increase their limits. Not so fast…

Ask Detailed Questions

  • Would procurement’s P-Cards be accessible when disaster strikes, including nights and weekends? Where did they store the cards?
  • What, exactly, would procurement staff need to buy? Would it vary, depending on the disaster?
  • Would they be able to handle all the purchasing needs or would others need to assist?
  • If additional cards are needed, how quickly will the issuer respond?
  • How would the card controls need to change? How high should the limits be? Should all MCC restrictions be removed?

To resolve these details, Paula recommended they conduct needs assessments. She was also concerned that her organization had never discussed disaster planning and recovery with the card issuer. Their contract did not mention it.


*To uphold her organization's confidentiality, Paula Cooper is not her real name.

Reassess your disaster plans to ensure all key points have been addressed.

Reassess your disaster plans to ensure all key points have been addressed.

Work with Your Issuer

Paula made a list of items to address with their card issuer, including:

  • the results of her organization's needs assessments
  • how to ensure swift responses by the issuer during a disaster
  • potential for increasing the organization spend limit to accommodate disaster purchases 
  • how to prevent unusual purchases from getting declined at crucial times

Communication is Critical

Finally, Paula learned that individual departments were also devising their own purchasing plans in the event of a disaster. One cardholder asked if he could share his card with his manager, who would need to make purchases, too. The lack of internal coordination and communication was immediately evident. 

What Can You Improve?

If your organization is like Paula’s, there is room for improvement concerning emergency preparedness. Access the related webpage for more on this topic.


About the Author

Blog post author Lynn Larson, CPCP, is the founder of Recharged Education. With more than 15 years of Commercial Card experience, her mission is to make industry education readily accessible to all. Learn more

Subscribe to the Blog