HR professionals play an integral part in the emergency management process.

To ensure your company is prepared for natural disasters and other unexpected crisis situations, it is crucial to expect the unexpected.

In the wake of Hurricane Ian, now is the perfect time to brush up on best practices. Does your company’s existing protocol anticipate these eight essentials?


Have reliable communication

Technology may not work the same as it did before the storm. Zoom, Teams, and Skype may not be an option so it’s important to have a reliable source of communication accessible to as many employees as possible. Some potential methods include:

  • Toll-free 1-800 number that regularly provides updates and important information to employees 
  • Social media (e.g. Twitter or Facebook) 
  • Email

It’s critical that these alternative forms of communication are expressed to employees prior to times of disaster. This ensures everyone is aware of important information. Having multiple channels to reach your team will also prove beneficial in case your primary method is impacted. 

Field important questions

Employees will likely have questions about scheduling and payroll during the business closure. To field these questions, create an FAQ or a one-page guide detailing your company’s Emergency Action Plan (EAP). Be sure to provide contact information of go-to HR leadership and distribute this handout to all team members.

Assess compensation policies

In the event of a natural disaster, it is important to continue tracking hours. If your employees cannot access your timesheets system, encourage them to manually track their hours. They can do so via a mobile phone timesheets application or on paper. Make sure your compensation plan considers all legal requirements including but not limited to:

  • Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA),
  • Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA),
  • Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

­­Avoid PR disasters

When individuals perceive worker mistreatment — whether real or imagined — this can have serious implications. To protect your longevity as a business, ensure that all policies and procedures are aligned with legal requirements. Consider how your plan addresses ambiguity. For instance, how does HR respond if upper-level management requires the company to operate under normal business hours during a hurricane? What will financial compensation look like during this time? Building trust between management and employees helps you avoid PR blunders. Otherwise, team members may resign or even share their grievances on platforms like Indeed, Fishbowl, or their personal social media accounts… thus causing additional challenges with talent acquisition down the line.


Facilitate relief efforts

During and after a natural disaster, make sure to confirm that each employee is safe. Ask yourself how your company can best support employees in need, and make sure to communicate those efforts to your team to encourage participation.

Share meaningful disaster relief programs, volunteer efforts, and other resources in your area. Identifying any assistance opportunities — whether physical, psychological, or financial — is key in the wake of a natural disaster. This will boost morale, foster opportunities for connection, and help employees get back on their feet.

Plan for staffing challenges

Whether affected physically or psychologically, some employees may be unable to fulfill work responsibilities in the aftermath of a natural disaster. Be sure you have a contingency plan if this occurs. Your gameplan should encompass ways to support these employees as well as how the work is still going to get done. Additionally, establish a chain-of-command designating responsibilities in the interim.

Support goes a long way

Empathy is perhaps the most underestimated part of Human Resources. In the wake of a catastrophic event, supporting your people is key. This goes beyond financial assistance. Check in on your employees’ wellbeing post-storm — including their mental wellness. Natural disasters and other traumatic events can make it difficult to resume work, so make sure your team knows you are there to help in any way you can. 

Welcome feedback

After the event has concluded and you have returned to business-as-usual, survey your employees. Ask what procedures were helpful. Discover what needs to be improved upon in the future. That way, in the event another disaster ever occurs, you and your people are more prepared than ever before. 

When it comes to emergency preparedness, People Operations and Human Resources professionals are among the first line of defense. Revisiting your emergency response strategy is an important part of that role. Now that you have considered several components of a well-executed crisis response, you can breathe easy knowing your plan anticipates any and all scenarios.

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