Hurricane Harvey and now Hurricane Irma. Wow! As a native of South Florida, hurricane preparedness is something that is second nature to most of us from the region. However, I spoke to my brother yesterday and he informed me that he waited 45 minutes to get gas in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. This was likely due to Governor Rick Scott declaring a State of Emergency in anticipation of Hurricane Irma.
Most people in South Florida still went to work today as the storm is not expected to hit until this weekend. Therefore, I began to realize that Human Resources can play an integral role in the hurricane preparedness process. Here are three steps employers can take to add value to their workplaces, employees, and communities in handling storm preparation.
At a minimum, communicating information to employees is a simple yet effective step to take in hurricane preparedness. Conventional wisdom would tell us that a majority of employees are aware of how to deal with a storm. However, in my experience sharing information such as supply checklists, preparation reminders and shelter locations are always incredibly helpful.
It is also important to proactively communicate when, if and how work schedules will be affected by the storm.
Other helpful information to employees can be whether or not their place of employment also serves as a hurricane shelter.
When a hurricane is looming, it is at the forefront of the minds of all employees. Therefore, HR should encourage directors, supervisors or managers to have a pulse on their workforce. This can be done by simply encouraging open communication with employees under their purview.
For instance, at the morning staff meeting asking employees if they are getting prepared or even acknowledging concern for their safety can go a long way. In contrast, employers should avoid late, reactive and rushed communication. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, this can show a lack of concern for the well-being of your workforce. While concern should be genuine, it should also be intentional.
Offer Something Tangible
The scene in the grocery store, gas station and/or home improvement store after 5pm during hurricane prep week is insane! This is where employers can really step up! Think about offering rotational flex time this week so employees can get ready for the storm. The overall preparedness effort would go so much smoother if everyone was not trying to handle all prep after 5pm. However, most employees have no choice as they leave work at 5pm!
Employers allowing for even a half day or a few hours can assist in better preparedness which is of value to everyone. Think about the collective benefit if more people were preparing at non-peak hours.
We all have a role as leaders, co-workers, family members, and friends to get through what looks to be a potentially devastating storm. Let’s work together and hope for the best! Stay strong Texas! Get prepared Florida!
Note: Due to liability, most public employers such as schools and universities have excellent storm preparation protocol. These institutions can be used as good guides/best practices for communication to employees.