Emergency Preparedness Plans for Today’s HR Operations

Between unexpected employee leaves, open enrollment logistics and compliance updates that cause an overhaul of internal systems it is easy to feel like you’ve lived through corporate disasters on a daily basis. Maybe that’s why HR professionals are great at being calm in crisis situations. But how prepared is your HR operation for a legitimate emergency situation?

Whether a devastating storm hits the region, an act of malicious or violent intent interferes with your business or a health crisis cripples your workforce, there are steps that you can take within the HR operation of your organization to help your business weather the storm. Below are the top four topics to focus on as you evaluate and/or create a solid emergency response plan before a disaster is at your doorstep.

Four Focus Areas to Consider When Building (or Strengthening) Your Emergency Response Plan

Focus Area 1: Policies and Plans that Protect your Employees

Handbooks that include updated policies about inclement weather, workplace violence, emergency evacuation plans, health epidemics and terrorism situations will help your workforce understand the plan that your organization implements when a crisis or emergency occurs. Policies should include who to contact when these emergencies surface, which internal personnel will take the lead in managing the situations, which external entities will be enlisted for support, and who has permission to speak on behalf of your organization to authorities or the press.  

Focus Area 2: Remote Work Options

Some disasters will require employers to be flexible and agile in order to stay afloat.  To achieve this objective, employees will need to have access to the tools to perform their job functions from a remote location. While not all jobs are able to be completed remotely, several are when the correct technology is in place. Between remote server access, cloud-based databases or backups, video conferencing tools and good-old-fashioned phone conversations – several daily operations can continue to function even when your place of business has been crippled by a disaster occurrence.

Focus Area 3: Evaluate Networks/Systems and Back-Up Files

While technology can help your organization survive some emergencies, it can also become the entry-point for other forms of disaster. Has your organization conducted a vulnerability analysis to identify potential weaknesses in your networks and systems?  Is your organization prepared to withstand or respond to the potential of a cyberattack on cloud-based software programs or breaches into your company networks?  Or, to respond to natural disasters that could physically destroy your technology equipment? Employee records should be backed up with electronic copies in an offsite location along with contact information for your payroll processing company, all benefit plans and administrators and copies of legal documents that are critical to the function of your business.

Focus Area 4: Communication Plan

Your workforce will be waiting to hear from you in the wake of a disaster. It is critical to establish a companywide communication system that will keep employees informed. Managers should have a contact list of personal phone numbers and email addresses for all of their direct reports. Provide your managers with a plan for the contact process that they will need to oversee in the event of an emergency. Be sure to include plans for contacting employee family members when warranted.

While effective emergency planning cannot be managed by an HR operation alone, the focus areas above will get your organization off to a good start. It may not feel like there’s time to work on a company-wide emergency response plan, but disasters rarely provide the warning time that it will take to get a comprehensive plan pulled together with the stakeholders of any given organization.

EANE has created an Emergency Response Preparedness Toolkit for our members that can be accessed through the members-only section of our website. (EANE Members must be logged in with full permissions to access this and other EANE member toolkits.) You will find links to helpful checklists, policies and tips from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The advanced planning that your organization does now can help your organization survive an emergency that may cripple other businesses.