Elements of an emergency plan for employees.

Cut off from my Jacksonville, Florida home/office by Hurricane Idalia, I’m extending a business a trip to Smith’s Atlanta office. In the face of Idalia’s fast-moving storm track, I’m following a plan I made with my wife before leaving Florida and keeping her informed of changes in that plan as events unfold.

My personal situation reminded me of the crucial role a pre-determined communication plan plays within organizations when events with the potential to threaten employee health and safety occur.  

Following is a step-by-step guide to what every organization needs to do to ensure effective communication during a hurricane (this approach works for other types of emergency situations, such as fires, floods, etc.).

Plan preparation should cover

  • Pre-emergency communications:
    • Preferably before the hurricane season starts, provide employees with information about the company’s hurricane preparedness and communication plans.
    • Include details on the roles and responsibilities of different employees during a hurricane and the various types of communications they can expect and communication channels you’ll use. 
    • Provide evacuation routes, shelter locations, and communication channels.
  • Emergency contacts:
    • Create a list of emergency contact numbers for employees, including local emergency services, your organization’s emergency response team, and relevant local agencies.
  • Emergency communication team instructions:
    • Designate a team responsible for managing and disseminating information during emergencies. This team should be trained to communicate clearly and effectively under high-stress situations.
  • Feedback channels and Q&A:
    • Establish a channel for employees to ask questions and provide feedback during the emergency. This could help alleviate concerns and correct misinformation.
  • Language and accessibility:
  • Remote work/flexibility:
    • If feasible, allow employees to work remotely during the hurricane. Ensure they have the necessary tools and resources to continue their work from a safe location.

Plan execution should include

  • Multiple communication channels:
    • Utilize multiple communication channels to ensure that information reaches employees even if one channel fails. This could include email, text messages, phone calls, internal communication platforms, and social media.
  • Regular updates:
    • Keep employees informed about the hurricane’s progress, potential impact on the workplace, and any changes to the emergency plan. Provide updates as frequently as necessary based on the hurricane’s trajectory and severity.
  • Clear employee instructions:
    • Provide clear instructions on what employees should do before, during, and after the emergency. Include information about evacuation orders, shelter-in-place procedures, and how to stay safe.
  • Localized Information:
    • Provide employees with information relevant to their specific location. Different areas might have varying levels of risk and different evacuation plans.

Complete plan, post-emergency (don’t miss this important step)

  • After the hurricane has passed, provide:
    • Updates on the status of the workplace, any damages, and when employees can safely return.
    • Lessons learned. When things have returned to normal, conduct a review of your communication and emergency response efforts. Identify what worked well and areas that could be improved for future emergencies.

Advanced planning and having clearly defined communication strategies and tactics in place will help ensure that your organization responds effectively to the challenges posed by severe weather events. Smith can help. Employee communication is what we do.

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