Does Your Company Have a Natural Disaster or Emergency Contingency Plan?

December 12th, 2019
Human Resources, In The News, Payroll Management, Risk Management, Uncategorized

By: Laurey West, SHRM-CP
Director of Operations

Most of you who are not from the Dallas area know that we had a very catastrophic tornado (F3). We always understood the importance of having a contingency plan in the event of a natural disaster or building emergency; however, we never learned how important until we were impacted by this devastating storm. We were very grateful we had one in place. The tornado path was less than a mile from our building. The Home Depot that you see destroyed in the pictures on the news is across the expressway and a few blocks south. Luckily, we escaped any major damage or injuries to the structure; however, the problem was the nasty tornado took large trees and placed them over the power grid for the block we occupy. After making sure all of our staff and their families were safe, we jumped into action.

We were told we would not have power (also, no phones) in our building for at least a week. The power company was going to have to hire helicopters to remove the large trees before they could even get started.  Knowing we have many clients who were relying on our company to process payrolls, we jumped into action. We had to notify all of our clients quickly as we wanted them to have a way to contact us remotely and let them know that payrolls would not be interrupted.   Since we had a plan in place, we were able to access contact information and our staff started dialing on their cell phones. In addition to notifying our IT Consultant immediately, we made plans to temporarily move to a secure office space close by that we knew offered suites for temporary purposes ahead of the event. Another consideration was alternate routes employees were going to have to take due to all of downed power lines and trees near their homes or on the way to the new location.  Our IT Consultant worked around the clock to make sure we all had secure access to computer and equipment needed at our temporary location. We had plenty of surplus office supplies stored off site, so we were ready to roll by noon of the first business day following the storm. Through our first experience with a catastrophic natural disaster, we learned we had a few areas of weakness that we have now tweaked in the event we have another disaster of any kind. Let’s hope not, but we were SURE not expecting this storm. The most important thing is that none of our clients’ businesses were interrupted or disrupted by the fact we were not able to work from our main location.

Do you have a strategy in place to address the many things you would be faced with if this happens to you? Do you have a plan to contact employees to ensure their safety and let them know what to do in the emergency contingency phase after a natural disaster or emergency of any kind? Who contacts the employees? How will the employees receive communication after a storm? Do you plan to use personal e-mail and personal cell phones? Remember that a storm can knock out access to your company e-mail servers. What is your plan if this happens?

Do you have another location to conduct business if you are unable to access your building? Do you have the equipment and supplies available to conduct business in a temporary location? What about computers and company servers? What if the equipment is damaged and not accessible in a storm? Do you have a remote back-up server?

In addition to worrying about business needs, how will you help alleviate your clients’ and employees’ stress levels? Do you have a list of numbers to provide your employees like FEMA or local vendors who have helpful material on what an employee needs to do after any natural disaster or emergency? How does an employee find out what roads are closed? Do you have someone for the employee to contact for power outages? Do you provide employees with resources related to steps they need to take after a major loss? Have you prepared your employees what to do to guard themselves against possible fraud after the natural disaster? Sadly, many homeowners can be scammed when they are trying to find contractors to help them. Do employees know they should have all contracts reviewed by licensed attorney before signing? Make sure your employees know to watch for red flags like significant cost savings or paying large sums of money before work is done.
Employees will have a lot of questions if the business is closed for any reason. Having an emergency contingency plan and phone numbers will help you be better prepared to address questions and guide employees and clients.

We have clients in many areas that experience natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes and flooding and our company assists with creation of contingency plans that help protect their businesses, employees and vendor and customer relationships as part of our safety and risk services. We hope you will take some time to consider putting a plan in place in case you are faced with a natural disaster or other emergency situation such as a fire or robbery? Sadly, these are things we need to be prepared for at all times for business continuum.

Here are just a few of the agencies and organizations that are available to assist in the event of a national disaster or emergency that you may find helpful in creating your plan:


National Weather Service:

Salvation Army:

National Emergency Management Association:

Disaster Assistance.Gov:

American Red Cross:

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