Preparation = Peace of Mind

As summer rolls in so do strong storms and other major weather events like hurricanes. Being prepared at home is often preached; however, it is just as essential to secure your business in the event of a natural disaster. From document storage to closing policies and even the communication system, what you prepare and plan for in advance will return tenfold in the event of an emergency.

Document Retention

Why it's important

When weather strikes, there is potential for a loss of documents, both physical and electronic. Water and wind are powerful forces and can generate power outages, fires and destroy files, projects and contact records if not properly stored and backed up. Even a partial loss of information can be detrimental to a business, so ensuring the procedures for backing up and storing files and documents ahead of a storm (and on a daily basis) can save your company much stress and financial loss.

What you can do

Review and amend (or create) the storage policy with your IT department to ensurefrequent and timely backup to the servers and a secondary master backup to boot. Pass down daily best practices to the employees on how to save and store their files, including working in or saving to the cloud. Create a detailed procedure for extra precautions taken ahead of the storm, including where to store electronic devices such as laptops, unplugging items at desks, and securing paper files in locked drawers off the floor. Host a run-through one day to show how to do a computer back up and how to prepare desk for a storm.

Office Policies

Why it's important

Without clear policies in place, confusion can lead to chaos in the workplace quickly. Employees who live great distances, over bridges, or have young children may be out of commission earlier than others in the office. Not having rules in place may leave your office empty when it shouldn't be, but also not being knowledgeable about when to be flexible can spell disaster. Keeping your employees safe during times of severe weather is the right thing to do, and you can do so by creating clear policies for office procedures and communicating them to the team.

What you can do

Understand the various weather conditions that may affect your business. In Georgia, there may be a side-swiping hurricane sending rain, wind and storm surge, or an ice-storm that closes down the entire state for two days. In the one day known as 'Snow Jam 2014,' there were 1,254 car accidents, and it took 18-hours before traffic returned to 'normal.'

Sit down with HR and come up with thresholds related to the weather's degree of severity, timeframe, and imminence. Search for alternatives to being in office, such as offering work-from-home time during or leading up to a storm, or opening the office on the weekend after the storm to make-up time. Be aware of rules and regulations both federally and locally on who you can and can't ask to come to work in potentially dangerous driving conditions, and always obey curfews and road closures put in place by authorities.

Communication

Why it's important

In times of uncertainty, keeping people on the same page is vital for safety. Communicating with those in your organization, as well as clients and vendors can put people at ease while setting clear expectations and follow-up procedures. Alerting clients that you will be closing builds trust and respect, and the same goes for your employees.

What you can do

Businesses used to depend heavily on phone trees, however with so many other forms of quick communication, and the risk associated with relying on humans in times of stress and potential power loss, this method is no longer preferred.

Using the thresholds created in the policies section, pre-write alerts and notifications that can be automatically sent out via a software system, or for smaller offices, designate one lead and one back up to send a mass text, accompanied by a post to your social media platforms and company email. Furthermore, in extremely dangerous conditions, designate check-in times for your team to ensure everyone is safe.

Roll It Out

Roll out these procedures with a group lunch or happy hour. Pass out written material, or email a PDF with the policies. Be sure to answer questions from your staff. When running through these updated rules, consider passing out portable chargers so your team can maintain communication if the power is out for extended periods. All in all, stay vigilant, stick to the plan, and make judgment calls that err on the safe side if there is any doubt.

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