HR Mavericks

Eddy’s HR Mavericks Encyclopedia

Hurricanes
No one likes to consider the possibility of natural disasters, but we know preparation is key. If your company is located in hurricane territory, you need to plan ahead. Read further to learn why it is important for your organization to prepare for a major storm such as a hurricane and the steps to take to do so.

Why Is It Important for Businesses to Prepare for Hurricanes?

Hurricanes are massive storms that can bring devastation, loss of life, and a loss of or slowed business operations. By preparing for storms, you alleviate fears, anxiety, and the impact of the storm on your business. The Federal Emergency Management Agency reported that approximately 40% of small businesses do not reopen after a disaster.
  • Fear and anxiety. Hurricanes are disruptive emotionally, economically, physically, and mentally. You can help relieve such fears by sharing your plans with employees, such as the resources (such as shelter and supplies) available to them before and after the storm. This helps to create a positive work environment in which employees feel valued.
  • Business continuity. Preparing for hurricanes can ensure that your business operations are disrupted as little as possible. For example, if your organization has a generator, business operations can continue with little to no disruption despite power outages.

How Can Businesses Prepare for a Hurricane?

There are many steps an organization can take, from reviewing your risk to planning safety actions. We will take a closer look at a few below.

Risk Assessment

Identify your organization's potential hazards and what could happen should a hurricane strike. You’ll want to consider how you will respond to injuries, damaged property (building, utilities), and environmental impacts (how your customers may be impacted). By reviewing your risk, you’ll be able to identify the resources you will need in the event of a hurricane. It is also a great idea to include your employees in this process, as they’ll be able to identify risks you may not be aware of.

Safety Actions

Consider the steps your organization will take to keep both internal and external customers safe. Where will people shelter? Who knows how to turn off the gas? Where are emergency supplies and first aid kits, and who knows that? Is there a battery-operated radio? Extensive preparation lists are available online.

Communication

Establishing a communication plan for disasters (and keeping it updated) is essential. It is key because it is how you will implement your plan, share any information such as closures, and specify recovery and contingency steps. Be sure to identify ways you will communicate with staff, vendors, and customers (e.g. email, walkie-talkie, company website), and designate a point of contact for all communications.

Data

Your organization's data is at risk not only to cyber attacks but to natural disasters such as hurricanes as well. Backing up your data makes the recovery process much easier in the event of loss of electricity, flooding, etc. Data safeguards and recovery information should be included in your documentation.

Differences in Hurricane Preparedness for Small and Large Organizations

Emergency preparedness is basically the same for all companies, but there are a few things smaller companies need to consider. Smaller organizations tend to focus on a segment of a larger market and have fewer employees. A smaller organization's communication strategy may not need to be as broad as a larger organization's. Financial risk may be a greater concern for smaller organizations. Large organizations may be able to shift production to another location in the event of a hurricane; unfortunately, this may not be the case for smaller organizations. A small business may have to halt production altogether. Smaller organizations should consider alternatives should production halt.

Tips for Re-opening a Business After a Hurricane

It is important to have a plan for after the storm. Before re-opening your business, there are several things to consider.

Communication

Be sure to keep your employees, vendors, and customers updated per your communication plan. Acknowledge that employees may need time to deal with the impact of the storm on their families. The Colorado Disaster Recovery and Continuity Guide provides the following tips when communicating with internal and external customers:
  • Have a prepared statement ready to go (e.g. website, newsletter)
  • Prepare messages ahead of time to make it easy to use your answering service to help get information out.

Employee Safety

Your employee's safety should be your priority. Assess your facility's safety before re-opening. As well as checking on obvious issues such as downed power lines or flooding, examine your buildings for non-visible damages, such as mold or damaged foundations. Water and electrical damage combined is dangerous. If there is water damage, first contact an electrician to evaluate if there is any electrical damage. Then open windows and doors to prevent the growth of mold.

Resources

Don’t be afraid to seek help. Federal and state agencies and local non-profits are great resources for education, recovery, and funding after a hurricane has made landfall. In addition, be sure to follow local news reports to stay abreast as to what is happening within your area that will impact your employees, such as downed power lines or road closures.

Scammers

We have all heard the stories of victims of hurricanes being scammed. Sadly, disasters such as hurricanes create opportunities for fraud. Preparing to reopen also includes being on the lookout for hurricane scammers. Note that government disaster officials will not contact you. Do not provide any business information if you are contacted, and check your local Better Business Bureau when contacting contractors for repairs.
Topics
Wendy N. Kelly, MSHRM, PHR, SHRM-CP

Wendy N. Kelly, MSHRM, PHR, SHRM-CP

Wendy is an HR professional with over 10 years of HR experience in education and health care, both in the private and non-profit sector. She is the owner of KHRServices, a full service HR management agency. She is also SHRM and HRCI certified, serves as a HRCI Ambassador, and voted 2021 Most Inclusive HR Influencer.
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Frequently asked questions
Other Related Terms
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