In February 2016 severe storms roared through Louisiana and across the Gulf Coast, killing people, spawning tornadoes, ripping up homes and plowing swaths through our communities here. Now in March we are facing devastating flooding that is displacing families and destroying homes and businesses in our communities. With the recent disasters we have seen we understand how important it is to have an emergency plan. I want to share with all the businesses out there what you can do to develop a plan or how to quickly implement one.
Businesses should plan for all natural disasters, whether they pose a direct threat or not. Natural disasters are unpredictable, making it important for your businesses to plan for every possible threat. Think of your plan as an umbrella to protect your organization’s greatest assets: your employees, your data, your facilities and your company’s reputation and brand.
Using disaster-specific checklists, like those I’ve compiled below, will allow your business to address any potential weaknesses in your preparedness or quickly pull together for a disaster you have not created a plan for.
1. How vulnerable would your business be if a disaster or other emergency were to occur?
- Know your region - take note of seasons where you have heightened vulnerability.
- Identify external emergency response resources available to you.
- “Like” all social media outlets of your local government ahead of time!
- This includes first responders such as fire departments, police and national guard.
- Consult with your insurance agent and learn what coverage is available and what precautions to take for disasters that may impact your business. Remember, many general policies do not cover flood damage.
2. What is your plan to protect the business and its employees before, during and after an emergency?
- Write a plan describing how your business will respond to emergencies and refer to it!
- Identify a planning committee:
- Know who would lead the communication between management and employees (this includes interns as well).
- Appoint a community spokesperson.
- Create a plan for conducting business if the facility is not accessible.
- Gather contact info of:
- Your employees - phone, email, possibly a social media group specifically for disaster communication.
- Your media and local government – public phone and email.
- Craft templates for responses ahead of time so you may just fill in time, places and dates etc. This includes:
- Press releases and social posts to the public.
- Emails, text messages and phone calls to your employees.
- Implement a schedule and channels for communicating plans before and providing updates during and after a disaster.
- Keep in mind digital communication can be limited. Have multiple channels available and plan to utilize them all.
- All employees should know their rule during a disaster and their rules and responsibilities.
- Test these channels and have them ready to go with a few changes to your templates and the press of a button.
3. What can we do to integrate emergency preparedness procedures into our workplace culture?
- Train employees on where to look for official communication.
- Practice your plan. Remember, practice makes perfect! Encourage personal preparedness among employees.
- Remind employees to always keep their emergency contact information up-to-date.
- Encourage employees to have an out-of-town contact that they can text or call during an emergency.
- Encourage employees to have emergency preparedness kits at work, at home and in their vehicles.
- Encourage employees to learn about the emergency plans at their children’s schools.
Following a strict plan using these preparation checklists will ensure that your business remains focused on securing your assets. Remember natural disasters are unpredictable, and planning for every possible threat is important. I hope this helps you plan or react to the recent disasters we have seen in our state and along the Gulf Coast. If you have something to add please comment below!
Download our handy PDF planning checklist here!