HR Leads Business

Sep 13, 2018 | Barry Lawrence, MBA, aPHR, HRCI Staff Writer

Is Your Business Ready for Florence and Other Disasters?

First, our thoughts are with all who are impacted by Hurricane Florence and other catastrophes that have impacted lives.

As the hurricane and tropical storm makes its way across the East Coast, the event serves as an important reminder to all businesses: If you haven’t already, now is the time to review plans and ensure preparations are in place.

A proactive disaster plan is the best way to protect your employees from harm and to ensure organizational sustainability in the event of a natural or man-made disaster.

"Natural disasters and man-made disasters occur in all parts of the world and present real threats to employee well-being and business survival," says Sandra Reed, SPHR, an HR and management consultant at epocHResources and author of A Guide to the Human Resources Body of Knowledge. "Acts of terrorism, acts of workplace violence and natural disasters, such as hurricanes, have prompted companies to expand the role of human resources to prepare for disasters."

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety standards require emergency action plans for emergency response. At a minimum, your employer should have procedures in place that:

  • Provide a system to communicate a fire or other emergency such as a hurricane.
  • Direct employees what to do during an emergency evacuation, including exit route assignments.
  • Prepare instructions to employees who must remain to operate critical functions before they evacuate.
  • Detail a process to account for all employees after evacuation.
  • Provide procedures for employees who perform rescue or medical duties.
  • Share the name or job title of employees who can be contacted to answer questions about the plan or employee duties. is an excellent website for disaster preparedness resources. Developed by the Department of Homeland Security, the website has several examples of plans and actions employers can take to be ready in a crisis.

Planning ahead and providing opportunities for open dialogue are the keys. Keep in mind that the most valuable output from the planning process is not always the written plan.

"The process of assessing risk, talking with employees and reaching out to the experts serves to create depth in organizational behaviors for managing risk," Reed advises. "HR must advocate for thoughtful, engaged action to produce effective programs that have management and employee support."

At HR Certification Institute (HRCI), we hope you, your workmates, friends and family are safe and sound during this year’s hurricane season. While having a natural disaster operations sustainability plan is a must, we hope you never have to use it. For those who have been impacted — by Florence and other disasters — we wish you the best as you recover, rebuild and resume life and work.