HR Management & Compliance

Preparing Your Workforce for Hurricanes and Natural Disasters

As Hurricane Dorian gets closer to the Florida coast, now is a great time to ensure your employees are properly prepared for emergencies and disasters.Hurricane

In 2018, there were 11,804 deaths caused by natural disasters worldwide. In addition, research shows that the number of recorded natural disasters has increased quite a bit in the past century. So, it’s still critical, perhaps now more than ever, that we’re well-prepared for them.

Additionally, environmental emergencies and disasters are still commonplace in the workplace across industries. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), thousands of employees die on the job each year, and workplace hazards and accidents cost American employers billions every year.

Luckily, however, deaths and accidents caused by natural and environmental disasters and emergencies in the workplace can often be avoided with the proper preparation and training in place. Continue reading to learn more about how you can ensure your employees are prepared for emergencies and disasters.

Understand Different Types of Natural Disasters

The most common natural disasters include:

  • Hurricanes
  • Tornadoes
  • Earthquakes
  • Floods
  • Wildfires
  • Landslides
  • Storms
  • Volcanic activity

Be aware of what types of natural disasters are more likely to occur where you and your employees conduct business, and stay informed. Have the appropriate precautions in place for each location.

Understand Different Types of Environmental Emergencies

The most common environmental emergencies that can occur in the workplace include:

  • Toxic gas releases
  • Chemical spills
  • Radiological accidents
  • Explosions
  • Civil disturbances
  • Workplace violence resulting in bodily harm and trauma

Be aware of what types of environmental emergencies your offices, buildings, and employees are most susceptible to experiencing. And then initiate precautions for them.

Implement an Emergency Planning Team

Regardless of how small or large your organization is, you should always have a plan in place for emergencies. Make sure you have a team in place that is responsible for planning your emergency protocols, policies, and procedures.

The team members should determine what should happen in the case of an emergency or disaster, where certain kits and resources will be located, how authorities will be notified, how employees will be evacuated and accounted for, etc. They should thoroughly document their plan, share it with everyone, and call in experts for consultations when necessary.

Designate Teams to Execute Your Emergency Action Plans

You should also have teams that are responsible for doing things like executing an evacuation, securing the proper supplies for when a chemical spill happens, sending out emergency notifications to employees when there’s an active shooter, etc.

And you will probably have multiple teams for different types of emergency action plans. For instance, the team that handles evacuations in the case of a live shooter will be different from the team that handles an explosion in a warehouse.

Train Your Teams for Their Designated Roles and Responsibilities

Once you designate teams, make sure that they’re trained and prepared to handle their roles and responsibilities. And always call in experts for guidance with this type of training. For instance, you should call in a firefighter to help your team members with how they should properly evacuate your building in case of a fire.

5 Tips for Ensuring Your Employees Are Prepared for Disasters

Here are more things you can do to ensure your employees are properly prepared for emergencies and disasters:

1. Establish, share, and promote emergency protocols, resources, and information. Once your designated planning team comprises emergency action plans, you must also establish emergency protocols and offer your employees resources regarding what they can and should do in the case of an emergency or natural disaster. Make sure your emergency protocols are crystal clear, and be sure to promote them across your organization.

If you create plans and protocols but never notify your employees and keep them updated of any changes, the plans won’t ultimately serve a purpose. Employees must always be aware of all emergency plans and protocols, as well as resources, if they’re to remain safe.

2. Drill employees at least once a year. Conduct safety drills at least once a year to keep employees safe, especially fire drills. If you’re in an area that regularly endures tornadoes, make sure your employees know exactly what to do if a tornado occurs.

If your establishment handles chemicals, explosives, or other hazardous materials, drill your employees annually to make sure they know exactly what to do in case something goes wrong, and so on. It is important that employees experience real-life examples of what to do in case of an emergency or disaster, not just read information from a manual or information packet.

3. Have appropriate supplies and kits for different emergencies and disasters. Make sure your establishments are always equipped with hurricane kits if you live in an area that regularly sees hurricanes. If your employees handle hazardous materials, make sure they have access to kits that contain the appropriate and nonexpired supplies to tend to chemical burns or other injuries, and so on.

And always make sure that you conduct first-aid training sessions on a regular basis so that your employees know what to do if and when someone needs immediate medical attention, stops breathing, etc. Overall, your employees, especially your designated teams, should know exactly where your emergency supplies are, what they are, and how to use them.

4. Develop an evacuation policy, procedure, and a postevacuation plan. Have a well-planned and -designed evacuation plan in place. You might have to evacuate your employees if there is a fire, if there is an active shooter, if there is a natural disaster, and so on.

Be sure to come up with clear procedures and policies that employees are aware of, and make sure they understand precisely what they need to do in case of an emergency evacuation so that panic is mitigated. Additionally, make sure you have a postevacuation plan so that you can make sure all are accounted for and safe once they’re evacuated from a building or premises.

5. Install and maintain emergency notification systems. Make sure you have a reliable emergency notification system in place. Employees should be notified via text or intercom if an emergency or disaster is happening. And the appropriate authorities will need to be notified when an emergency occurs too. Having a well-operating emergency notification system in place can mean the difference between life and death for many.

As you develop your emergency plans, policies, and procedures, be sure to follow the tips and best practices listed above if you want to ensure your employees are prepared and safe.

For more on how employers should handle pay, leave and other issues related to employment law in the wake of Hurricane Dorian, see “HR Issues that Arise when Natural Disasters Hit.”