Sandy Altschul knows few people or businesses that are prepared for a natural disaster, a major accident, a plane crash, or possibly a terrorist attack. As an expert in emergency preparedness, Altschul helped in the response and recovery of four major aircraft accidents in Wayne County — including Northwest Airlines Flight 255, which crashed in 1987 near Detroit Metro Airport due to pilot error.
Working in the public sector for more than 16 years, Altschul operated a side business that provided medical services for major events, safety training, facility emergency plans, and operational consultation. One of the largest events his company handled was Pope John Paul II’s visit to metro Detroit in 1989.
After leaving Wayne County in late 2012, Altschul took a year to convert his side business into a full-fledged enterprise. Located in Farmington, the private company, called ARK, prepares businesses and organizations for emergency situations.
The plans he develops are designed to ensure that a business or organization is back up and operating immediately following a disaster or shutdown from an accident.
“Most of us would correctly assume that an emergency plan would detail the duties various personnel must undertake during a blackout or a tornado, but we drill down a lot deeper by accessing all of the variables that could impact your operations,” says Altschul, founder and president of ARK (named after Noah’s Ark).
“Did you build your headquarters, stadium, or manufacturing plant over gas lines? What’s the plan if those gas lines are attacked or somehow blown up? What if there is a fuel tank operator down the street from your business? What’s the contingency plan if it catches fire and everyone in a 10-block radius is ordered to evacuate? And what happens if you can’t get back inside your business for two weeks or more?”
With a roster of 30 clients including Comerica Park, Joe Louis Arena, Bedrock Real Estate Services, Henry Ford Health System, and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Altschul works to identify every possible incident that could impact the successful operation of a business.
In the near future, he plans to offer his clients the ability to tap emergency services via a smartphone, a tablet, or a laptop computer.
As Altschul notes, his business is proactive until it becomes reactive. “If a plane crashes, you can’t predict the exact time, but we can bring as many as 100 people to a crash site and work on any number of duties in concert with public authorities,” he says.
Small businesses can likely predict potential accidents that may impact daily operations and can set up contingency plans in case the office is closed for an extended period of time. But the larger the organization, the more it needs some form of emergency preparation services, Altschul says.
“Large companies have to assign different duties to different people, and if it isn’t done in an organized and deliberate way, you will have major problems on your hands,” he says. “We all saw what happened during the Boston Marathon when those explosive devices were set off near the end of the race. Believe me, you don’t want that kind of mayhem at your event.”
b— R.J. King