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Risk in Context

Four Steps to Help Your Employees During a Catastrophe

Posted by Chandra Seymour June 24, 2015

Only about one-third of companies said they are ready to help employees get back on their feet in the wake of a major disaster, according to a Marsh survey.

About 150 risk professionals responded during a recent webcast to the statement: “My company has a plan in place that will help our employees manage the personal impact of a major disaster while at the same time rebuilding our business.”

  • 36% said yes.
  • 32% said no.
  • 32% said they weren’t sure.

Make no mistake: To help keep your employees safe and to enable them to be nimble after a disaster, developing, maintaining, and testing corporate-level crisis-management, emergency-response, and business-continuity plans is critical.

Here are four basic planning steps to help your employees through a crisis — be it a Hurricane Katrina, a Superstorm Sandy, a tornado, an earthquake, or another unforeseen event.

  1. Help employees become personally prepared.  Start now by providing education about personal preparation during a natural disaster. There’s ample free information available from the federal government and local communities. Let employees know where they can access it. And be sure to make it readily available in break rooms or online. You can also invite organizations like the Red Cross to come in during business hours to discuss preparedness with employees.
  2. Help employees prepare when a storm is forecast. Provide website links or literature about preparing their homes for disasters. Make sure weather updates are readily available at work. Consider giving employees time off to prepare homes and families. By taking these steps, you can reassure employees that their families are safe, helping them to stay focused at work.
  3. Provide a way for employees to check in. After the storm or during the activation of your plan, regularly update employees on when your business will re-open and when they can return to work. Keeping lines of communication open will also help you recruit employees to help with clean up. Remember: Two-way communication is key. Give your employees an easy way to update their managers on their status and ability to return to work.
  4. Help employees get back on their feet.  After a severe event, be creative. Allow an extra day off for home repairs, or provide employees with needed supplies. If you have several employees with losses, consider inviting a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) or insurance representative to give a seminar or lunch-and-learn about filing claims. And remember that not all damage is physical: Consider providing stress counseling or similar resources.

Taking these four steps can make a difference. During our recent webcast, Lessons from Hurricane Katrina: Looking Back, Planning Ahead, one of our clients shared his personal experience from that storm. A bonus to providing employees — and in some cases suppliers — with assistance, he said, was the “incredible loyalty” it inspired.

Besides, he said, it was just the right thing to do.

Chandra Seymour

Senior Vice President, MRC Reputational Risk and Crisis Management