What’s your first move if an emergency situation – whether a tropical storm or a political uprising – breaks out around the corner from your home?
Now imagine this is your new home – in a new city, state, or country. Suddenly, you’re not just dealing with the emotional and financial stress of an impending disaster coming at you at supersonic speed, but you’re also in an unfamiliar land and possibly navigating a language barrier with no escape in sight.
This nightmare scenario was a horrifying reality for countless mobile employees in Texas and Florida, who were battered by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The colossal hurricanes wreaked havoc on the regions; claiming over a hundred lives, destroying hundreds of thousands of homes, and causing hundreds of billions dollars of damage, according to White House estimates.
Of course disasters aren’t always avoidable, but we can avoid being ill-prepared. So, here are a few best practices to ensure your mobile, on-the-move workforce is 100% prepared when an emergency strikes.
Who/What: Keep a continually updated contact list (phone, email, and physical address) of employees in the target area. Also, maintain a database with the family headcount for each employee. That way the emergency team can make appropriate arrangements for employees and their loved ones – and no one is left out in the cold, literally! After all, what if the emergency team only purchases one airplane ticket for Kevin from the sales department… but Kevin shows up at the airport with his wife, three children and golden retriever?
When: The hurricane season in the U.S. runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).
Where: Create a database of the contact info of emergency services (e.g. police and fire departments, hospitals) in the hurricane hot spot towns/cities where your employees live.
How: This is the nitty-gritty of your plan. Say, as soon as the NWS announces a severe hurricane threat, the emergency team will enact the evacuation plan: contact affected employees, book their transportation and provide temporary housing (i.e. motel/apartment complex) in a location out of the storm’s path. Just as important? Create a plan for employees who don’t evacuate – for whatever reason (whether medical or personal). Have a list of available shelters at the ready and brainstorm way to deliver care packages of food/water/cash/clothes immediately after the disaster dissipates.
Once employees are confirmed safe, disseminate frequent communications via texts, emails, and phone calls. For example, the emergency team could send out an email blast throughout the day detailing when the next company-chartered bus will arrive to transport workers or the addresses of available shelters. Staying in constant communication with displaced workers will reduce panic, stress, and confusion. Be clear in all communications that employees shouldn’t return home until they’ve been given the go-ahead by local emergency services.
OK, so the above works if your employees are already settled in their new homes. But what if your company has employees in the midst of relocating to an area hard hit by disaster? Here are a few things to consider:
So, what if you have employees on assignment outside the affected area but with family or property in the region?
In all cases, emergencies can result in emotional stress and strain. Leverage your company’s EAP provider to offer assistance.