The 2017 Fires Underscore the Need for Exit Planning

The Event

Fire crews battle a wildfire Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017, in Santa Rosa, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

The October 2017 Northern California wildfires were the worst in the state’s history. Victims were traumatized by 70 mile-per-hour wind gusts and fire that week. Evacuees grabbed their children and pets with only moments to spare in some cases.  The fires caused 42 deaths, destroyed over 8,000 buildings, and displaced 100,000 people in three counties.

The Silver-Lining

Communities came together to support and care for those most effected. My church in Petaluma responded as did many other organizations.  Our facility became an emergency evacuation center and gave shelter to many. These centers overflowed with donated food, clothing and necessities after just a few days. Victims are already planning the rebuilding of homes and businesses damaged by the fire. Northern California will recover and probably be stronger than ever after digging out and rebuilding.


Life is short and filled with uncertainty. Management should develop the following to mitigate such risks:

  1. Develop a disaster recovery strategy this year. This plan may be the most important project your organization has ever completed.
  2. Write a five-year business plan for 2018-2022. Most business owners are extremely good at meeting stated goals.  The hardest part, ironically, is writing them down. You will be amazed at the effectiveness of written goals.
  3. Assemble a formal Exit Strategy. An unplanned event will dictate the transition if you don’t.

Need help? I’m here…

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