Thursday 20 September, 2018

Career Corner: Preparing for natural disasters

In recent weeks, we have all witnessed how natural disasters can affect our lives, whether by way of earthquakes, tropical storms or hurricanes. Our regional neighbours have been severely affected by hurricanes, and with the hurricane season active until the end of November, it is possible that we may still have more adverse weather conditions to deal with. 

Natural disasters don’t only affect us in our personal lives however, they affect us in the workplace too, and it is therefore important to prepare for events like these. Here are a few things that you, and your organization should take into consideration…

- Planning for disasters: it is important that your organization has a disaster planning committee in place, so that an emergency plan (and a business continuity plan) can be developed and implemented, and preparations can be made for how the entire organization should respond to a natural disaster. The committee should ensure that disaster response procedures are in place for each business unit, evacuation routes and assembly points are established for employees, essential services are designated to shut down operations if necessary, and systems are in place to communicate with employees before, during and after disasters occur. It is critical to have these plans in place now…after the catastrophe, it is too late.

- Department Teams: at the departmental level, disaster response teams should be in place. At least two (2) team members should be selected from each department who can act as disaster coordinators. These persons should have the names and contact details of all employees in the department (and their next of kin), so that they can make contact with everyone if this becomes necessary. The department coordinators should also be a part of the companies’ disaster planning committee (referenced above), and should also serve as the point of contact for the HR Department. Where possible, these employees should also be trained first aiders in case of any eventualities.

- Safety Drills: Organizations should have periodic safety drills to familiarize employees with safety procedures. These drills should be designed for natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes that are possible occurrences in our region.

- Special Needs: As part of the disaster preparedness plans, accommodations should be in place for employees who may be physically challenged and who have limited mobility on account of this. It is important that plans are in place to provide assistance to these team members if necessary.

- Supplies: Ensure that emergency supplies are in place. The organizations should have First Aid Kits available in the event of injures, and should also have fire extinguishers, flashlights and batteries available. Bottled water and nonperishable food items like canned (tin) food should also be kept in stock. Whistles are useful too, so that if persons are trapped, rescuers can follow the sound of the whistle to reach them.

- Be Prepared. Ensure that you know your organizations disaster preparedness plans. Familiarize yourself with evacuation routes and assembly points. If you have been assigned specific duties, be familiar with your role.

 

Although these recommendations are not exhaustive, they can provide guidance for how you and your organization can prepare for a natural disaster. The size of your organization, and the nature of your operations will dictate the specific steps that need to be put in place. If your company does not yet have an emergency plan and/or a business continuity plan, suggest (…and insist) that these are implemented. It is important for companies to have things in place to ensure the wellbeing of all employees, and also critical for employees to take steps to protect themselves too…stay safe!

 

Malaika T. Edwards is a Human Resources consultant and provides advisory services to individuals and business clients. She is also a PhD scholar at the Louisiana State University (LSU) where she specializes in Human Resources and Workforce Development. You can contact her at malaika.edwards@yahoo.com, or on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/malaika-edwards.