Learning & Development

Contingency Planning for Weather Emergencies

With winter nearly upon us, is your organization prepared for weather emergencies? Snow, ice storms, high winds, power outages—any number of things during these cold months can create a situation in which your employees may be unable to safely get to work.

Wintertime isn’t the only season for adverse weather, and the list of potential emergency situations is long. Tornados, earthquakes, hurricanes, flooding, volcanic eruptions, fire, drought—employers have no shortage of reasons to prepare in advance for destructive weather events.

What can an employer do to keep employees, data, and products safe, all while minimizing the impact on the business?

Weather Emergencies: Plan Ahead with These Tips

In weather-related emergencies, the solution is certainly not one-size-fits-all since company structures and business models vary so widely. For example, an office-based staff working mainly with data may be able to work from home and continue business as usual if most of their homes are unaffected, but a retail store front or manufacturing facility may not. It’s key to assess your organization’s unique needs and plan accordingly.

Here are a few tips and examples of contingency plans that employers are implementing to help with weather emergencies. These can assist you in keeping employees safe, securing your data and products, and getting back to business as usual ASAP.

Tips for keeping employees safe:

  • Designate specific personnel who are required to keep the facility safe and functioning, and adopt a policy in which all other personnel should not report to work during an emergency.
  • Have a way to communicate with all employees during an emergency. In fact, have multiple options in case the primary line of communication fails.
  • When feasible, allow employees to telecommute during inclement weather. Often this requires advance planning—employees must have tools, software, and secure access available at home in advance of an emergency in order to work remotely when a weather event occurs.
  • Allow employees to work from alternate locations, such as from other office locations or worksites.
  • Create a policy in which employees are not penalized for days missed when weather conditions dictate that it is unsafe to travel to the workplace.
  • Create detailed continuity plans and communicate these plans throughout the organization so that employees know what to do when an unexpected event occurs.
  • Plan for evacuations, know in advance the conditions that will trigger them, and communicate these conditions to employees.
  • Train staff on how to react during emergencies. Ensure everyone knows how to contact emergency personnel and what to do next. Have evacuation drills. Ensure employees know what to do in a medical emergency as well.
  • Keep supplies on hand so that you can weather a storm in the event you are unable to leave. Have several days’ worth of water and nonperishable food ready, just in case. Remember that the food should be ready to eat, because a possible power outage may preclude cooking as a reasonable option.
  • Have plans in place for handling the aftermath of an emergency. How will all employees be accounted for? Do the right personnel know how to restart all systems safely after a power outage?
  • Compile all contact information for employees, suppliers/vendors, customers, and anyone else you may need to contact in the event of a closure of the business or of a facility. Being able to communicate quickly is important.

Tips for keeping data products secure:

  • Set up and test data backup locations to ensure that employees have access to all data on the servers even if a primary server is disabled. Confirm that data remains secure.
  • Understand what precautions need to be taken to secure the building(s), people, inventory, and equipment. What systems ensure data is backed up and everyone and everything is protected?
  • Schedule inspections of all buildings to look for safety concerns. Address any necessary repairs before an emergency strikes.
  • Designate people to lead safety and contingency planning—both from a personnel perspective and from a business continuity (i.e., data and product) perspective. Who is monitoring weather concerns? Who is responsible to make the call to evacuate or have employees stay home?

Tips for planning business continuity before and/or after the emergency strikes:

  • Secure backup supplier options to call in case a primary supplier is unable to deliver needed items during inclement weather.
  • Be familiar with all company insurance policies and know which types of damage (and lost revenues) are covered—and which are not. Get additional coverage if applicable.
  • Conduct assessments to determine risks and vulnerability points—and then create plans to handle each of the most likely problems. This may include purchasing equipment, conducting training, and any other necessary action to ensure preparedness.
  • Gather information about your physical location(s). Do you know the layout and where emergency equipment is located? Do all employees know?

Remember: disaster plans should be reviewed and updated on an annual basis. Always assess and evaluate any way circumstances may have changed that would necessitate a change in contingency planning.


About Bridget Miller:

Bridget Miller is a business consultant with a specialized MBA in International Economics and Management, which provides a unique perspective on business challenges. She’s been working in the corporate world for over 15 years, with experience across multiple diverse departments including HR, sales, marketing, IT, commercial development, and training.

1 thought on “Contingency Planning for Weather Emergencies”

  1. And don’t forget about the various wage and hour issues that can be implicated by, e.g., putting employees on standby, sending them home after a couple hours.

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