September is National Preparedness Month, an observance to spread awareness about the importance of preparing for disasters and emergencies that could happen with or without notice. This year's theme is "Prepare to Protect. Preparing for disasters is protecting everyone you love."
For the first time in its history, the Ready Campaign, in partnership with the Ad Council and will launch a series of Public Service Advertisements specifically designed to encourage preparedness within underserved demographics.
The last 18 months have been difficult for everyone, and like everyone else, companies and agencies have come together in ways we never imagined. Things like showing up for a co-worker's promotion over Zoom, sending virtual cards to celebrate your manager's birthday, or safely getting together for a socially distanced walk have brought us closer with our peers than ever before – in some ways, like family.
With this year's focus on encouraging preparedness, we wanted to offer tips and advice on how employers can manage dispersed workforces with unpredictable weather events and disasters, and emergencies that could happen at the drop of a hat.
When I served as an emergency management specialist for the U.S. Department of State and the Defense Logistics Agency, I worked hand-in-hand with HR – especially when any employee-related communication regarding potential disasters or threats was needed. Hazards varied in nature, but I was almost always dealing with a dispersed workforce.
Here are a few tips that employers and HR managers can use to better prepare for disasters with a remote, hybrid, and dispersed workforce:
Establish a best practice for planning and preparing during blue skies:
Employers and entities can implement best practices in their HR processes when managing remote, hybrid, and distributed workforces during hazardous months, such as hurricane season. Establishing best practices ensures the ability to plan and prepare during "blue skies" to reduce risks to employees and employers in times of need.
Create scripts for company-wide communication:
In addition to establishing a plan, employers should develop pre-scripts for various events – e.g., office closures due to severe weather, exposure to COVID-19, and even more sensitive situations like sheltering in place.
When creating scripts, employers must work closely with HR and legal to ensure the appropriate language is used and notifications are sent to the correct individual. Working in lockstep across departments cannot be overlooked because it's likely that employers will use different messaging for employees labeled as union or essential.
When proper scripting is completed in advance, employers reduce risk to employees by communicating effectively and quickly. In addition, when everyone has a clear understanding of the plan, all parties are safeguarded – meaning, life safety is prioritized, and litigation for employers is limited.
Invest in preparedness tools:
Proactive preparedness tools are also a wise investment for employers. For example, Harbor, the application that's helping build a safer and resilient workforce, assists companies in increasing risk literacy to create a culture of preparedness. In addition, Harbor provides an intuitive and empathic interface that incentivizes employee behavior and influences employees to buy into their safety.
Benjamin Franklin said it best, "by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail." It's better not to have an opportunity and be prepared than to have an opportunity and not be prepared – especially when lives and safety are at risk.
Check out more information here from the Ready Campaign and the Ad Council about how you can Prepare to Protect during 2021 National Preparedness Month.