How HR Can Help Employees Handle Natural Disasters

by Michael Haberman on September 9, 2011 · 0 comments


I occasionally am approached by someone who would like to write a guest post. This one was offered by Erin Palmer from Villanova University. It is timely given the recent hurricane, tropical storm, floods and earthquake we have had in the eastern United States. It is full of good advice.

When natural disasters strike, employees will often look to HR for answers to all their questions. Natural disasters can bring about chaos, uncertainty and logistical problems within a company if human resources do not have a procedure in place. Below are some tips to assist you in helping employees handle natural disasters.

Have a plan prepared 

Safety of employees should be priority number one and efforts should be focused on verifying everyone is okay. If you are waiting until a natural disaster strikes before figuring out what to do, you’re already too late.

Outlining a detailed plan will keep employees focused on what they should be doing. Your plan should assess disaster potentials and outline the steps to take to keep employees safe, informed and working.

The plan should talk about what happens if a disaster occurs during business hours. Employees could report to their department head or the company could assign a single contact to provide ongoing information to its workers. Whatever is decided, the more detail provided, the better for all parties involved.

Make sure the company thinks about the after-effects of disasters when writing the plan. While the disaster presents one set of problems, the time immediately following can present hurdles as well. Once a plan has been created, it is important to train all employees accordingly on the procedures. All employees should get a copy of the plan and key questions or concerns should be addressed by management and HR.

Take care of employees 

Natural disasters tend to make the affected feel isolated from the rest of the community. Associates directly impacted by an emergency should be given both emotional support, as well as resources to help them feel protected. Let them know the company is there to assist them and keep a communication channel open with employees and their families. Keeping them informed on what’s happening globally and showing a general interest for the employees’ welfare will help them know that they are not alone.

Alternative Work Plans 

If a workplace has to shut down temporarily, employees need to know if work is cancelled or if they should report to another office location. Work expectations should be clear from the onset, because communication can be difficult following a natural disaster. Consider allowing employees to telecommute from home if they aren’t affected by power outages. If weather is causing transportation issues, a carpool schedule or shuttle bus might be a viable option.

Assess and adjust your plans when the crisis is over  

Once the natural disaster has passed, HR should reassess its crisis procedures to determine what worked, what was confusing and what could be improved on. Talking with all employees should provide helpful feedback. Find out their opinions on how the company performed during the disaster and ask them if there were any aspects that were completely missed.

After all the feedback has been gathered, HR should be able to determine what adjustments should be made to the initial plan. Focus on the problem areas and brainstorm how to make them better for the future. Seek the advice of other companies who may have had similar challenges. When it comes to the safety of employees, every effort to have the best plan in place should be exhausted.

This post was provided by University Alliance and submitted on behalf of Villanova University’s online programs. Villanova offers an online human resources degree program in addition to an HR certification program. For more information on these or any other programs please visit http://www.villanovau.com.

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