HR and Disaster Recovery

Posted August 28, 2017 by Mary McGinley

Not since 2008 has a major hurricane struck the state of Texas. Before Harvey made landfall, however, communities were coming together in preparation for the coming storm. Many of them made sure that their workers were safe and made continuity plans for the business should the worst actually come to pass. In a recent article that appeared on the Benefits Pro website, HR departments are involved from the very beginning in order to get contingency plans set up for workers and organizations.

According to Steve Layne, of Denver based security consulting firm, Layne Consultants International, less than 50% of businesses that close in an emergency or natural disaster ever reopen. “It’s shocking to see the number of companies that have no business continuity plan, “Layne said.

Based on data released by the United States Department of Homeland Security, 93% of Americans are not prepared for a disaster, while 75% of businesses and organizations don’t factor in human behavior into their disaster plan. For small businesses, 61% have no contingency plans in place should a natural or other disaster happen.

Since the tragedy on September 11th, the devastating floods in the Midwest, landslides and other natural disasters, these occurrences seem to constantly be in the news. Both businesses and their employees can be lulled into a sense of false security or even complacency and tell themselves that “it can’t happen here.”

In the devastating floods that hit the Midwest, the city of Cedar Rapids, Iowa was especially hard hit. Of the 1,200 businesses that were affected by the flood between 600 -700 of these sustained direct losses. Some 525 businesses never reopened, and others were able to reopen only to close just a short time later. Everything from small businesses to a federal courthouse and the city’s main public library were affected. Few, however, had any sort of contingency plans for what to do to recover from the disaster.

As climate change becomes an issue that increasingly affects many areas in devastating ways, it has, according to some government officials, become a matter of national security. Layne said that many organizations don’t really get past the planning stages and don’t have a finalized emergency plan in place. “Most companies that I ask for an emergency plan say they have it in draft form,” Layne said. “I ask how long it’s been a draft, and they say something like `seven months’.”

“Very few business continuity plans focus on human resources,” said Ralph Petti, President of Continuity Dynamics in Wilmington, Delaware, “but when there’s a fire in the building, HR will get the call.”  HR, according to Petti, plays a key role in developing and implementing all emergency plans. HR is also instrumental in helping the organization to respond and recover and at the very least should insist on having a place at the table when making emergency plans.  Among the things that HR professionals can do in event of emergencies are:

  • Help account for all employees. Focus on their well-being and that of their families.
  • Provide for counseling services.
  • Address financial needs.
  • Provide assistance in preparing them to return to work.

For those who have experienced personal devastation in such disasters, being able to know what to do and where to go can be a challenge. HR professionals can provide the necessary resources in terms of all kinds of support that can help workers and their families on the long road to recovering after a disaster.

Does your organization have an emergency plan in place? Has it been updated recently? More importantly, are your workers aware of what to do in case of an emergency or natural disaster? How well prepared are your employees when dealing with any kind of emergency? At EinsteinHR, we can help you create and implement a written safety plan that is updated regularly. We can also help provide resource materials for that plan for your employees so that they are prepared in case of an emergency. Contact us today at 888-981-3622 (emc2) to find out how we can help.