Tag: #IRMA

Post Disaster: Now What?

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Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

By Wayne R. Bodie, MBA, SPHR

No matter how prepared we think we are, life has a funny way of teaching us exactly how much we truly don’t know. Although a lifelong learner with extensive postgraduate education, I gleaned my most important lessons from the school of life, not from a formal university.  As a native Floridian, I’ve experienced countless hurricanes.  Never once, in all that time, did I ever feel compelled to evacuate.

That is, until now.  Along with 6.3 Million Florida brethren, I faced evacuation, but the prevailing question was, “Go where?”  Especially since Hurricane Irma’s massive “cone of uncertainty” covered the entire state.  The one and only reasonable action, flee Irma. That meant leaving the state with 1.5 million other Floridians residing in mandatory evacuation zones.  The biggest hurdle was there are only 3 major arteries out of Florida and only one direction out (North).

During our exodus, we encountered 874,000 other cars, a plethora of car crashes, gas outages and 150 plus cars lined up at the pumps. A huge problem emerged post-storm that I had quite frankly not anticipated.  Trying to get back home.  The volume of those displaced, the road closures, flooding and fuel delivery delays, all significantly impact the speed Floridians can return home.  Additionally, of those that chose to shelter in place, a major portion of this population have no power, no internet/phone service, and must make critical food and fuel rationing decisions.

My friends and family sought shelter in Tennessee. We all have already have been contacted by employers in one way or another inquiring as to when we can safely return to work.  Some of us have even received their 2nd phone call with slightly more demanding tones.  During breakfast this morning, I overheard a close family friend displaced from Miami, several months pregnant, and without a vehicle hang up on her employer stating, “I’ll return when I can.”

From a Human Resources perspective, it’s reasonable for employers to expect an employee’s prompt return to work contingent on when it’s safe to do so.  The primary goal for any for-profit organization is to ensure the financial success of the business and ensure stakeholder protection. But, there is a fine line between “reasonable” and “unrealistic” expectations. To date, I have never truly understood the complexities of such a large-scale evacuation, nor have I understood the intricacies of trying to return home post such an incident.

It is my responsibility as a Human Resources representative to adequately prepare and implement policy on how to handle such matters.  Just as important as developing policy, is the importance of maintaining open lines of dialog with operations and executive management prior to an incident to set definitions of what’s realistic and achievable.  Without a strategic partnership between human resources and operations, communication post incident to employees may come across far less empathetic than desired.

Having a seat at the big table in an organization is critical to Human Resources.  While it is easy to focus on the bottom line in terms of the production of widgets, it can also be easy to overlook the critical needs of our organizations “internal customers”.  Our employees are the lifeblood of an organization, and without them, no business can succeed.  This is one of our critical roles in Human Resources, and sometimes a gentle reminder to key decision makers on the human condition is required by human resources for a balanced business plan.

 

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HR Department & Emergency Preparedness

By Wayne R. Bodie, MBA, SPHR

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Does your organization have a well-designed, informative, and proactive hurricane action checklist?  Do you have an Incident Action Plan that establishes what your department role will be pre, during, and post incident?  I am confident that many of the larger well-established departments have plans in place.  I am also just as confident that smaller departments with limited resources may “shoot from the hip” with little to no guidance on how to establish an effective plan.

Never assume that your employees know how to, have done so in the past, or have access to the required resources to survive a disaster.  As the HR Department representative, take a proactive role and educate all your employees and guarantee they have access to basic information.  My suggestion is a handout that is prepared and delivered in person, which ensures delivery and provides visual feedback as to the employee’s level of preparation.  This document should be custom tailored to your specific region with emergency contacts to the following agencies:

  1. Ambulance, Police, & Fire
  2. Social Services
  3. Highway Patrol
  4. Marine Patrol
  5. Local Hospitals
  6. Local Veterinarians
  7. Poison Control
  8. VA Clinic
  9. Utilities
  10. Emergency Managers
  11. Insurance Hotlines
  12. FEMA
  13. Emergency Number for your Organization

This document should also have additional information such as basic CPR instructions, wound management, and general safety tips.  In years past I have functioned as a professional rescuer.  In my experience, most injuries and deaths occur post incident not during.  In the case of a hurricane, once wind speeds approach 50 miles per hour, most emergency response departments will cease.  During the critical stages of a hurricane, employees must be self-sufficient.  All 911 calls at this point are “queued” based on the level of priority, resuming only once conditions are deemed safe for responders.

Be sure to assign an individual responsibility for all communications to employees.  This individual should be tasked with updating all employee files with accurate contact information such as addresses and phone numbers.  They should also be responsible for developing a check-in process, via phone, email, social network, etc.  Facebook offers a safety feature called Facebook Safety Check which allows individuals to check-in virtually during a disaster.

Make sure that your Incident Action Plan allows for employees to have adequate time off to prepare and prep for storms.  Likewise, make sure you have a written plan on how you will handle compensation during the emergency.  Emergencies happen with sufficient frequency that there should also be a written policy assigning who is responsible for maintaining each critical business activity such as payroll and vendor management pre-and post-incident.

There may be individuals that may need to work on site during the incident, or have no place to go.  Choose how you will handle these situations prior to an incident. Either a plan for assistance to local shelters or maintaining an emergency cache of supplies on site are both options.  Any required emergency supplies to be kept on site would vary based on need, this task might be best delegated to your Safety Manager.

Hurricane Irma is days away from impacting Florida and putting a written plan in place may not be feasible for some.  At the very least, make sure all contact information with your employees is current, make a “touch” and find out if they have any needs, and make sure to check in on them.  To those that are going to be affected by this storm, my thoughts and prayers are for you.  Everybody please remain safe during this storm and take heed from local officials should they request that you evacuate.  God Bless.