The Importance of Hurricane Preparedness for your Business and Staff

According to FEMA and the US Department of Labor, 40% of small businesses don’t reopen after a natural disaster hits. Is your business prepared if a disaster strikes?

Preparing early can ensure your business doesn’t become a part of that statistic. A hurricane preparedness plan can be created by an HR professional to safeguard your business. Learn why it’s essential to take proactive measures to prepare your business and your employees for unpredictable hurricanes and other natural disasters.

What is a Hurricane Preparedness Plan?

No matter the size of your business or what industry you’re in, you need a hurricane preparedness plan. A hurricane preparedness plan, or hurricane policy, is an action plan to keep your business afloat during and after a natural disaster. Your plan should be reviewed and updated annually, at a minimum. “In New Orleans, the best time to update and communicate the plan is before Hurricane season starts. I also remind employees to update their emergency contact information at this time,” our HR expert Jake Dufour advised.

Ideally, an organization should have a plan for each individual type of disaster including fire, tornado, and hurricane. The plan and policies should cover the following:

  • At what point you will close your office. Our HR expert Ashley Sorrells advised “for a tropical storm, management they may close the office for the 12 hours before and after predicted landfall. Or, for a category 3 projected storm, management may decide to close for the 24 hour period before the storm and 48 hour period following the storm.”

  • How/if employees will be paid if the office and/or worksite is closed (both short term and long term).

  • What is the distance employees can travel away from the office.

  • Do you offer remote-work options? If so, define how remote work be handled.

  • If there is an emergency call-tree? How does your management plan to communicate updates to employees during this time?

  • Have you identified your key team members?

  • How will employees access any necessary data? Is it accessible?

Differences Between Preparing Large vs Small Businesses

Large and small organizations have different advantages and weaknesses when it comes to being responsive to an emergency. “For example,” says Jake, “the communication strategy will be much simpler for a smaller organization, but the displacement of a few key employees during a disaster could quickly cripple the business. A good way to prepare for this is to cross-train employees on critical business functions prior to hurricane season.”

A large organization can better adapt to a disaster, but only if they have an extensive, tested and communicated disaster preparedness plan. If such a plan is not in place, or if the communication of that plan is not sufficient, the result is staff confusion and chaos for the business.

Liability for All Businesses

Small and large businesses alike need to consider the safety of their staff during a natural disaster. Your employees are your most valuable resource! Make sure that they stay safe through the storm. It’s also important to keep in mind that if you require your staff to work during a storm you can be liable for their safety during that time.

“The biggest factor we could expect is if something fell under negligence. For example, having part of a fire escape route blocked or closed and there was a fire and the employer didn’t have an alternate fire escape route,” Ashley advises.

How HR can Help Prepare Your Business for Natural Disasters

Human resource professionals play a vital role in planning for disasters and emergencies. HR experts work with the management and executive team of a company to help create a custom disaster preparedness plan that works for that specific business. HR’s role is to ensure that a response plan is in place well before the crisis even occurs. After they have strategically created a procedure for an organization, the HR professionals effectively communicate the plan to all employees of the business.

HR isn’t just there for the pre-disaster planning but also helps businesses to prepare for the post-disaster aftermath. They help the management team determine remote work capabilities and limitations of all employees and game plan for alternate work sites in the interim.

Prepare for this Upcoming Hurricane Season

Hurricane season begins June 1st and continues until November 30th. If your business is vulnerable to hurricanes, it’s important that you understand your risk, develop a hurricane preparedness plan, and create an inclement weather pay policy.

To prepare, work with an HR professional to create a hurricane-specific policy that addresses your employees safety and information around office closings and alternative work information. Make sure your team understands their role and what they need to do during a potential hurricane.

Ashley reminds “Management should also clearly communicate how updates will be shared with the team with text updates, email, and/or a phone tree. And remember, if your business is requiring employees to work at an office or job site during the storm, then you would absolutely retain liability for the safety of your staff during those times.”

Emergency planning can feel unnerving, but it doesn’t have to be! At HR NOLA, we help businesses like yours create a thorough hurricane preparedness plan. We help to make sure that the business you’ve worked so hard to build can continue to thrive for years to come. Contact us today to set up a consultation to find out how HR can boost your business!

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