When Disaster Strikes - Tilson


When Disaster Strikes

Leadership & Management, Training & Performance | September 2017

Given the recent devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey, we felt compelled to stress the importance of having a disaster preparedness plan in place for your organization.  Whether an emergency strikes during business hours or in the wee hours of the morning, a documented plan will alleviate some of the stress that is expected in the wake of an emergency.

In most cases, continued operation of the business will be determined by the type of disaster or emergency and the degree to which it impacts the business.  My suggestion is to start developing your plan by the type of emergency your business could potentially experience.  Some examples are:

  • Inclement Weather
  • Natural Disaster
  • Fire
  • Power Outage
  • Domestic/Workplace Violence
  • Criminal Actions

Next, you should address the potential emergency situations you identify with varying levels of action.  For instance, a fire that breaks in the server room will have a different response than if the second floor of your building is engulfed in flames and the building has to be evacuated.  Similarly, a few inches of snow may impact your delivery drivers to some degree, whereas a blizzard or blizzard-like conditions could interrupt deliveries or halt them completely.  Use an “if, then” approach, to determine the possible actions employees, managers and business leaders should take in a given situation.  Consider the following example:  Your business operates on the second floor of a building.  In the event that a fire erupts on the first floor, how do you get employees to safety? Do you have an evacuation plan?  Is it posted in a conspicuous area?

In an October 2016 article written for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the author notes that “in an age when every employee can serve as a de facto spokesperson, executing effective internal communications can help ensure worker safety, minimize damage to your brand, return your workforce to productivity and build trust among employees.”  It was further noted that many companies are implementing emergency notification systems which provides various methods of communication with employees in the event of an emergency.

Another consideration that should be addressed is what happens in the aftermath of an emergency.  Not all employees clock in and out or use an access card to gain entry to the workplace; therefore, a system should be in place that managers can use to account for their direct reports.  Designate a meeting place so that everyone can be accounted for during and/or immediately following an emergency evacuation.  For those employees working in remote locations, the aforementioned emergency notification system would work well.  However, setting up a custom “employee roster” report in your Human Resource Information System (HRIS) for line managers is another option.  With today’s smartphone technology, managers could easily gain access to employee information if they are displaced or do not have access to a computer.

Safety First….  As with any company policy, be mindful of the level of danger your employees are exposed to complying with it.  If inclement weather is imminent or if there is even a possibility, refrain from “forcing” employees to put themselves in harm’s way to travel in to work.  A sound policy should include verbiage that informs employees to “use their best judgement” when traveling in to work or returning home.  In the case that a county or state agency declares that the roads are unsafe or closed to everyone but emergency personnel, best practice would be to excuse those impacted employees from work.

Unfortunately, there is rarely much warning when a disaster or emergency situation is on the horizon.  But with preparation, education and proper training, you can reduce the adverse impact on your business and employees; which in turn, could help you to rebound more quickly.

Information Not Legal Advice:  This website has been prepared for general information purposes only.  The information on this website is not legal advice.  The law may vary from state to state, so that some information in this website may not be correct for your jurisdiction.  Finally, the information contained in this website is not guaranteed to be up to date.  Therefore, the information contained in this website cannot replace the advice of competent legal counsel licensed in your state.

Communicating with Employees During a Crisis, 10/25/2016



Check out more HR Insights.





Press Releases

More resources

Sign up for HR insights from the Tilson team.

Skip to content