DISASTER CAN STRIKE AT ANY GIVEN TIME. SOMETIMES THERE’S A warning, such as in the case of a hurricane that is going to hit your region. Other times, a disaster could happen in the blink of an eye like the Las Vegas mass shooting. Knowing that your employees are safe is information that is key to your organization.
Do you have a plan in place for how to react and obtain what you’ll need in a time of distress? Having a plan in place can put your employees at ease as they’ll know what to do in times of emergencies, which should also help response times during an emergency. Ultimately, our goal is to meet the human needs in a disaster and transition employees back to work quickly. Here are four key steps that will help your organization be better prepared when a disaster strikes.
1 - Gather contact information
Ensure that your HR department has all phone numbers and emergency numbers on hand for all employees. As an HR leader, you should have these numbers with you at home and if possible, give them to another HR leader in another location. You might find yourself in the emergency situation and will need others to call on your behalf.
If a disaster strikes, a call should be made to all employees to make sure they are all accounted for and safe. A social media or employee crisis line can help with this process as well. Set up an employee-only corporate social media page for your employees to check-in as safe and later to update employees on the status of returning to work. This is particularly useful if phone lines are down.
"Ultimately, employees need to feel that their company has their back in any situation. If they feel that their company cares for them, then they will be willing to give that much more back to the company."
2 - Keep your employees informed
It is important that the employees know that you have a disaster plan in place. Make them aware of the company Employee Assistance Plan. Also, disseminate information that is useful for preparing for a particular disaster, such as a list of local shelters.
Senior management or the CEO should send an informative message about what employees can expect in terms of work hours before, during, and after the disaster, what they can do to prepare their work area for the disaster, and emphasize the importance of checking in to inform that company of their safety.
3 - Stay flexible
In preparation of the disaster, consider closing early if it will help your employees have time to prepare (e.g., stock up on gas, food, and water, or evacuate the area), which may alleviate stress levels and increase the safety of your employees. If allowing all employees to go home is not possible, then allowing nonessential employees to go home and prepare is ideal. Allow a rotating skeleton crew for the employees that are crucial to your business to stay and get through the crisis.
After the disaster, understand that some employees might have to work from home for various reasons. Further, flexible hours may be needed so employees can take care of essentials, such as home repairs. Finally, many employees may have childcare schedules to contend with as well. Be supportive and give flexible options to meet the needs of your employees.
4 - Offer support
Your employees are your greatest resources, so listen to their needs after a disaster and provide support when possible. For instance, after a hurricane, many may be without power; perhaps your organization can provide a hot lunch for them and/or tell them where they can get a hot shower (e.g., areas hotels, YMCA). If employees encountered great hardship, this might be the perfect time to set up an Employee Relief Fund or Go Fund Me Page to directly help those at your company get on their feet. Further, allow your employees to discuss the events with each other so they can receive additional social support and have a sense of comradery.
Bottom line: every HR department should have a disaster plan. If carried out correctly, employees will feel informed about the situation, know that there is flexibility in their work environment to accommodate their needs, and that the company is doing everything in their power to get them back on their feet. Ultimately, employees need to feel that their company has their back in any situation. If they feel that their company cares for them, then they will be willing to give that much more back to the company.
Shawn Harrell is currently enrolled at Rollins College in the masters of human resources program. She has been employed in high school and college education for 15 years and has also worked as a contractor at Disney World and as a PR manager at a website management solutions company for nine years.