Harvey, Irma, Sandy, & Katrina. All four names have been associated with hurricanes that have hit various areas of the United States in recent years. Other natural disasters, such as fire season in California, tornadoes in the Midwest, and the recent volcano eruptions in Hawaii and Guatemala, remind us that emergency preparedness is another area all organizations should have established. But what is HR’s role in this initiative?
HR plays a significant role in emergency preparedness. “The HR department is chiefly responsible for establishing and implementing employment policies and procedures. They are the main communicator with regard to employment policies and procedures with employees,” states Tracy Moon in the BLR webinar “Emergency Management at Work: How to Prepare for and Respond to a Crisis Situation.” Since the Human Resource Department is the go to department for everything human related in an organization, it is HR’s responsibility to communicate what should happen if an emergency occurs. Preparing, communicating with, and in some cases, training employees for such situations will not only help the organization stay afloat fiscally but also instill confidence in employees during a time when everything else seems to be falling apart.
Governing Magazine, in a January 31, 2018 online post, listed a few things to consider when developing an emergency plan:
- Review and Readjust: If after a natural disaster (or even before) you notice some areas in your disaster preparedness plans need some adjustments, do not hesitate to change what isn’t working in your organization’s plan. Optimize for a better future.
- Determine Your Risks: Identify the types of natural disasters that may impact your environment.
- Assess Personnel Needs / Consider Staffing Contingencies: Determine the number of personnel you would need to assist during and after the emergency. Keep in mind some staff may not be able to travel into the area for some time…can you temporarily reassign other personnel in the case of an emergency? If so, has there been enough cross-training for the temporarily reassigned personnel to confidently complete their new duties? Can the work be done remotely? Do employees have access in the event that they must work remotely?
- Ensure a Platform Exists for Internal Communications: In the event that regular communication is halted, what are the other means of establishing contact?
- Identify Worksite Alternatives: Make sure potentially affected employees know where they can report to if their primary worksite is not available, and how to obtain information / updates.
- Offer Employee Assistance: Identify opportunities, policies, and budget to offer employee assistance in case injury, death, or property damage is the result of a disaster event.
HR Exchange Network also noted the importance of knowing where employees are travelling for business. We should be prepared to give assistance if an employee encounters such an event during business travel. In some cases, we may need to cancel business trips in order to keep employees safe.
Whether the event happens at home or work, there is plenty that can be done to keep the employee and the organization safe from most unforeseen events. Does your organization have a plan set in case of an emergency? What are the steps? Feel free to share your thoughts in our comment box below!