When disaster strikes a business, the impacts include more than just the property damage and business disruption. Employees may be injured or temporarily out of a job. A disaster that affects a community may also damage employees’ homes or force them to stay with family or friends. The human impact could be significant.
Providing assistance and support for employees should be part of a business’ preparedness program. It should include communicating with employees and their families and providing support as appropriate.
Communicating with Employees
Following a disaster in the community, it is in the best interest of the business to communicate with all employees. Employee information, typically compiled in a human resource information system, includes home addresses and telephone numbers. Consider asking for additional information including home email addresses and cellular telephone numbers (for text messaging/SMS). Also, request the name and contact information of a family member or friend who can be reached in an emergency. The confidentiality of this information should be protected and only be available to authorized users who are operating from their office, emergency operations center or alternate business facility.
If the business uses an electronic notification system, the additional contact information should also be added to that database. Use call lists or the electronic notification system to contact employees and identify those who need assistance or are awaiting instructions from their employer. If your business has a call center, inform employees to contact the call center following a disaster to obtain official information. The crisis communications plan should include procedures to provide official information to call center operators.
Many employers have employee assistance plans (EAP) and providers. Services include access to professionals who can assist employees to deal with the emotional impacts of a disaster. Employers can also arrange for services from professionals within the community. Reach out to public officials and mental health providers within the community to identify services that may be available to employees.
Whether an emergency or disaster affects the local community or a remote location where employees may be working or traveling, you need to account for all employees as part of the emergency response plan. After accounting for all employees, assess the potential human impacts and determine appropriate assistance.
Following a major incident, you may want to open a family assistance center or direct employees to an assistance center opened by local officials or FEMA. Locating and applying for Federal disaster relief is available online. Consider employee needs for short-term assistance, including advances on future wages. Provide assistance to employees in accessing available benefits.