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Inclement Weather Policies and Alerts Made Clear

Inclement Weather Alerts Plan Inset Image

May 2, 2022 Posted by in Crisis Communications

During bad weather, your best defense is to be proactive — you’ll need to have a prior plan in place for inclement weather, that includes policies and alerts. Think about how your business is affected when this disruption becomes a reality for you and your staff. Closings due to weather are not always an open and shut case. Will employees work remotely? Will they be paid for a full day or a partial day? Do you consider paid time off (PTO)?

First, define inclement weather. 

It may not be as clearly defined as you think. Law Insider defines inclement weather as the existence of rain or abnormal climatic conditions (such as hailsnowcold, high windsevere dust stormextreme high temperature or the like or any combination) by virtue of which it is either not reasonable or not safe for workers exposed to continue working while the conditions prevail.

Inclement weather seems rather abstract when you’re just reading about it. However, keep in mind that hurricane-related weather can linger long after the initial hit – wet pavements and roads due to flooding can be extremely hazardous, even after the storm passes, and disasters like a tornado can cause death and destruction in a matter of minutes.

Inclement weather can also be complicated to pinpoint — what is considered inclement in one area may not be the same in another, even if the second destination is only a few miles away. You may have to drill down and apply your alerts and policies on a case-by-case or location-by-location basis. Think of it this way: a snowstorm in Philadelphia is a wintertime fact of life; however, in the South, even a dusting of snow could cause havoc. It’s not always about the amount of snow. Your policies may not always apply to everyone in every place at the same time.

Remember that protecting your staff from inclement weather is a legal and moral obligation. 

You and your business could certainly be liable if an worker is injured while on the job, even during “acts of God,” such as inclement weather. It is thee organization’s responsibility to take measures to protect people from harm. The best way to honor this obligation is to think, “my employees’ safety comes first.” A slowdown or interruption of your business flow are not more important than human lives.

Often, these events are unpredictable, but your response doesn’t have to be.

Here are a few considerations to get you thinking about your inclement weather policies and alerts:

  • How far in advance will you notify employees of office or business closings?
  • How will your employees be notified? For example, an emergency alert system can be vital in this situation.
  • Should employees stay home and work remotely?
  • What is your backup plan if your office loses power or internet?
  • Confirm what constitutes a business closing: A lack of heat or cooling? A state of emergency declared by the government?
  • If certain employees can’t be contacted and updated, what are they expected to do and how else could you advise them?
  • Where is the nearest safe shelter, and how can it be accessed?
  • Is employee compensation affected by office closings (for example, employees who work by hourly rates)? Know your employees’ rights. According to The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is a labor law that the United States Congress passed in 1938 to protect the rights of manufacturing workers. In the more than 80 years since the FLSA was first introduced, Congress has revised the law to adjust the minimum wage, expand employee protections and protect more than just the rights of manufacturing workers.

Follow official inclement weather policies and alerts guidelines.

The government offers guidelines for how to determine and implement policies regarding weather events:

How to create your inclement weather policies and alerts:

First, put it in writing and make it an official company document. The doc should include all the rules and company procedures when it comes to dealing with inclement weather. The ultimate goal is to communicate your plan clearly, so that there are no questions or gray areas about what your staff needs to do in the event of inclement weather. Be sure to review the policy with your staff ahead of time so that any questions or concerns can be addressed, and that your people know what to do when the time comes.

Keep in mind that your employees may need extra time to deal with inclement weather. 

Recognize and allow for extra time for your employees to deal with their personal priorities, such as home and family issues in the midst of an emergency. There may be home-repairs, daycare, school, and public transportation slowdowns or cancellations. Of course, these situations can affect an employee getting to work, or coming back the next day.

Also, as a result of inclement weather, don’t assume that all employees have continued access to electricity, phone, water, or Internet.

Vendors and customers may also have trouble in traveling to your business location. Allow for interruptions in supplies.

Invest in a crisis communication system.

The name of the game in this situation is communication. You’ll need to reach your people in real time, wherever they are. A mass notification system like the kind RedFlag offers allows you to write your alert once and then send it to multiple platforms, such as email, voicemail, text, and Microsoft Teams. A crisis communication system lets you send timely messages to as many people as need to receive it — big groups or small groups. This time-tested way to keep your staff safe will save you precious time when you are going to be involved in other urgent concerns.

Some of the benefits of a crisis communication platform include:

  • Two-way communication: don’t just send alerts and updates — you can also perform a headcount (polling) and find out where your employees are in the event of an emergency. If someone is in trouble, they can contact you with two-way text.
  • Data and insight gathering: find out what works and what doesn’t in an emergency situation. Employees can let you know why they are not safe (or don’t feel safe in the moment). You can use this information to improve your future inclement weather policy and alerts.
  • A way to save time and simplify your process:  Compose a notification once and send it to multiple channels with the click of a button – even directly from Outlook or iPhone and Android apps. Manage all of your notifications with an easy-to-use dashboard, generate detailed reports, and automatically import users’ data from third-party software.

Of course, no inclement weather policy can include every detail of what may happen in the event of an emergency. Your policy should be broad enough to be easily interpreted in most situations. With time, you can continue to fine-tune and customize your policy to best fit with your company’s culture. Overall, your policy should acknowledge the event and offer best practices for help and communication.

Read more about what to do about business continuity and disaster recovery. Click here

Find out how to create the most effective emergency communications plan. Click here

RedFlag can help you with mass notification and emergency management. Click here

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