The onset of June has ushered in this year’s Atlantic hurricane season in the U.S. In 2018, major hurricanes such as Florence and Michael caused catastrophic damage in the southeastern U.S. In the aftermath of these cataclysmic natural disasters, many businesses are still struggling to re-establish their footing. The hurricanes also caused significant loss of life and property.
Often, the forecast of an imminent hurricane doesn’t leave you with a lot of time to prepare and plan. It is only natural that individuals and communities are bracing themselves in advance for the hurricane season of 2019. It is equally important for business owners and employers to take precautionary measures. In addition to ensuring uninterrupted business operations, they should work towards safeguarding their employees in the event of a major hurricane.
Before we discuss a few steps to protect your employees, let us see what hurricane season 2019 has in store.
According to AccuWeather, the upcoming hurricane season will be slightly above normal, with a likelihood of 12-14 storms. Five to seven of these storms will have the potential to develop into named hurricanes. Out of these, two to four are expected to fall under category 3-5, causing significant loss of life and property.
It is obvious that hurricanes and storms can disrupt the proper functioning of a company. Damaged office buildings, power outages, disrupted communication systems, etc. are some of the problems business owners will have to deal with. However, keeping their employees safe should be their top priority whenever a natural disaster strikes.
Here are a few tips to safeguard your employees this hurricane season:
Your employees are unarguably the most valuable assets for your business. Ensuring the safety of your workforce under any adverse circumstances is important for the proper functioning of your company. While you can’t control how and when a hurricane strikes, you can take a few preventive measures. Proper planning and strategizing will help protect your employees as well as your business.
It is highly unlikely for all your employees to be always stationed together at the same location. They could be at a meeting in a client’s office or in another city for a business trip. Additionally, some of your employees may work remotely from their homes. If you want to protect all of them, it is crucial to know their whereabouts when a hurricane alert is issued.
Thus, the first step is to gather thorough and up-to-date information about all your employees. In addition to their address and phone number, you should learn about the mode of conveyance they use to reach work. It is equally important to find out the paths they use for their commute. You should also keep a close eye on their travel calendar and find out if they have scheduled any upcoming business trips.
The only way to prepare for a major natural disaster is to plan well in advance. This gives your employees a clear idea of what they are supposed to do when disaster strikes. An effective emergency plan is one that includes comprehensive checklists, intricate evacuation maps, and a detailed communication strategy. Moreover, it should be capable of adapting to changes caused by unforeseen circumstances.
The checklists should outline all the tasks to be performed in the event of an emergency. You should also work closely with a facility manager and build evacuation maps that will guide employees to the nearest exit. It is essential to print physical copies of these checklists and maps and display them on each floor of your office building. This helps prevent chaos and panic in case there is a power outage due to the hurricane.
Even the best emergency evacuation plan is of no use unless you have a courageous team that can execute it. The key is to identify various roles and responsibilities and delegate them to suitable employees. Another effective strategy is to divide your workforce into multiple teams and assign each one with a key responsibility.
It is necessary to ensure that every team member has a clear idea of what they are supposed to do. Moreover, they should know how to access the required resources that will help them carry out their tasks. It is equally crucial to give them practical training and conduct periodic mock drills. This hands-on experience will be extremely useful when they are faced with a stressful emergency situation.
Flawless communication is the backbone of your emergency evacuation plan. It helps your emergency response team carry out their tasks smoothly. In addition, it enables you to provide real-time updates before, during, and after the evacuation process. It also allows you to get the latest updates on employee status and locations.
It is necessary to develop an emergency communication system that can function even in the absence of electricity or the internet. It should allow you to communicate with your employees, irrespective of where they are located or what device they are using. You should commence the process by updating employees’ phone numbers from time to time. In addition, you can use emergency notification software to send alerts and updates across multiple devices.
Depending on the size and nature of your organization, some employees may have to stay back despite a hurricane alert. Moreover, a few employees might fail to follow the evacuation plan and get stuck in the office building. Such situations, although highly unlikely, can jeopardize your employees’ safety. It is, therefore, recommended that you provide your employees with emergency kits consisting of food, water, first-aid kit, radio, batteries, etc.
If your evacuation plan is successfully executed, most of your employees are likely to reach their homes safe and sound. For these employees, you can prepare home emergency kits that include company letterhead, cash, checks, etc. This kit may not be essential for their survival during a hurricane. However, it can come in handy once the storm has passed and they have to resume operations from home.
Hurricanes and natural calamities have been on the rise due to various factors such as pollution and global warming. As a business owner or employer, you don’t have control over these factors. However, you can use your foresight and experience to protect your employees from the catastrophic effects of such events.
The most essential step is to develop an actionable emergency plan and delegate the responsibilities to different employees. Hands-on training and impromptu mock drills will prepare your workforce to tackle emergencies. It is equally important to build a robust communication system that won’t falter even in case of a power outage.
As an employer, what preventive measures are you taking this hurricane season? Share your views in the comments section below.
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