Weather experts predict that the coming few years are likely to be rough ones for extreme weather. When these events unfold on a normal business day, that’s when your emergency communications will sink or shine.
When hurricane season strikes, it’s critical that organizations consider their emergency communications plan.
What’s at stake? More than 100 people died in US storms last year, the highest number since 2005, and an estimated $200 billion in damage was caused.
The UK will also be at increased risk. The two wettest winters in UK history were in 2013 and 2015, and experts predict that volatile weather conditions will continue in the future.
It’s critical to be able to effectively reach staff during such times of crisis. There are steps organizations can take before, during, and after an event, which will make them better able to weather the storm.
1. Be prepared – Before the event
Prepare an emergency communication plan, defining the messages to be sent, the recipients, and the coordinators.
Ensure your emergency communication plan is available to all employees in advance, and make it a compliance policy that they read it. Internal communication tools like desktop tickers or wallpapers are effective ways to reinforce behavior.
Finally, rehearse the communication process so that in the hour of need, any confusion is avoided.
2. Take action – During the event
When a hurricane strikes, employees need up-to-the-minute information from a single, reliable source that they trust.
Utilize all available internal communication channels to ‘flood’ your message. SMS, digital signage, social media, and other high cut-through channels will ensure your message gets through.
Try using different colored alert templates so staff immediately understand the message type. For example, red = urgent, blue = important, green = useful.
As well as urgent mass communications, managers should also be able to reach out to staff and check on their safety. (Read a real-life story about Holiday Inn and how they kept communications running during a major weather event).
3. Get learnings – After the event
When the crisis is over, identify what worked well and what needs improving.
Get feedback from staff through a survey. You may discover the frequency of communications needs to be increased, or that one format has a much higher readership rate than other channels.
Most importantly, keep your emergency communication plan up to date. Staff will continue to join and leave the organization; remote offices may open or close; the communications co-coordinator themselves may move on, taking their knowledge with them.
Urgency is essential when extreme weather events strike. A comprehensive emergency communications plan will help organizations be prepared, minimize risk and potentially save lives.