Communicating after a Disaster Is Key to Business Continuity

Before a hurricane hits, a prepared communication plan is a recovery-advantage for the entire organization. If you do not have a communication plan that you can use before, during, and after one hits, read this, then call me. I'd love to help you.

Implement a Communications System

As organizations craft their disaster preparedness and response plans, it’s vital to business continuity and employee engagement that communications are concise and streamlined on all fronts, and especially that they are effectively transmitted!

My cell service, after Ida, was spotty, but I could get SMS messages better than MMS messages. Crescent used a system that allowed all employees to be on the same thread, using an SMS channel, rather than the data-heavy MMS channels so not only were we connected, but we were able to take our culture of caring to the next level. Making sure the system provides multi-channel and two-way communication is vital.

Communication Channels? What is a Communication Channel? A communication channel is how you relay messages to and from your target recipient, e.g.:

  • SMS text – good for quick communications
  • Mobile app push notifications – ideal for notifications that don’t require a response, but will fail if data service is low
  • Phone/voicemail – use for more detailed information with a callback number
  • Email – optimal when there is a lot of information, links, or attachments
  • Intranet – use Event Pages to keep incident-related information on one page
  • Social media – Excellent for enabling employees to communicate with each other
  • Custom channels – Fitting for organizations with non-traditional forms of communication
  • Think beyond cell phones if you are in emergency response services…things like walky-talkies, etc.

Being able to communicate across multiple channels simultaneously or individually ensures every employee receives the message on their preferred device, no matter what external forces are at play. Deliverability rates increase, allowing end-users to respond and react immediately per instructions.

Maintain Your Employee’s Contact Information

Communication is challenging when employee contact data is inaccurate or outdated or only electronic, if you have no internet access. A detailed hurricane communication plan will require that an organization gather, store, and update a large amount of contact data for those who will need to receive hurricane information. It is imperative that each user’s name, email address, cell phone number, direct office number, and office location are maintained and updated with any changes. There are multiple ways companies can ensure their communication system is updated with the correct data:

  • Upload an up-to-date CSV file
  • Manage/refresh your Active Directory sync
  • Leverage your HR system, like isolved, which makes it easy for employees to self-service online as their own information changes.
  • Send a registration link to all of your people so they can update their own data

Inform the Right People at the Right Time

In the event of a hurricane, organizations need to quickly identify the right audience for their messages. Hurricane communications should be sent to appropriate people or groups, including remote and lone workers, based on their proximity to the affected areas. For example, we have workers in other states, who would not have needed the extensive communications the New Orleans area employees got, in fact, it might have disrupted their work unnecessarily.

Administrators should take the time beforehand to group together individuals based on their office location to better deploy location-based notifications. You can use grouping in many different scenarios, but leveraging location services during a hurricane is key to getting the relevant message to the right people quickly.

Monitor For Threats

Modern technology allows meteorologists to track potential hurricanes even when they are just tropical storms brewing in the Atlantic, earlier and earlier these days. Most of the time, employees are well aware of hurricanes long before they become a material threat, and they're usually worried about them, before business leaders are ready to initiate communications plans. Be ahead of the mental anguish with a preemptive message about awareness and that the business has a plan to weather the storm. You need to have approaching storms on your radar as soon as possible, so that you can start to make the necessary preparations.

Have a Set Hurricane Communication Plan

According to FEMA (and this number to me is utterly mind-boggling—we don’t want our customers to go out of business), nearly 40 percent of small businesses that close due to hurricanes and other weather-related damage never reopen. While large companies are more likely to survive a hurricane, they are also more likely to be impacted—since large organizations typically have multiple locations and far-reaching supply chains. To mitigate a hurricane’s impact, organizations large and small need to prepare ahead of time for hurricane season. Create a simple hurricane preparedness checklist and conduct a 15-30-minute training on it with all of your employees ahead of time, so they are well aware of their role in the plan.

With a modern mass communications tool, organizations can get ahead of the storms and better execute their hurricane communication plan by:

  • Distributing company expectations for crisis communications
  • Providing guidance and instruction to employees
  • Empowering those involved to communicate from anywhere at any time
  • Having a clear and organized plan will eliminate chaos and help keep people safe.

Create Event Pages and Notification Templates

Utilize resources like Facebook or other networking sites to keep understand what your employees are going through, encourage picture sharing and regular interaction and surveys so employees maintain engagement in a personal way.

Crafting Your Plan

It can feel overwhelming to start a hurricane communication plan from scratch. Start by finding modern mass communication system, if not texting, email, or intranet, that fits the needs of your organization. Then upload communication templates and discuss with key stakeholders what procedures make the most sense for your company. And always make sure that key stakeholders, such as executives in charge of communications, must have access to data, cellular, and any other means necessary to maintain connection. Even if you don’t plan out every contingency, having templates ready, along with a general plan, will go a long way when a hurricane does threaten business continuity. Each disaster is a learning experience for many companies, and that's more than ok, it's even ideal.

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