One of the lessons businesses learned with the shut down in March of 2020 was the importance of having a business continuity plan. With the recent resurgence, many business and public leaders are anticipating a return to some kind of limited operations. Between the looming unknown of COVID infections and the promise of a busy hurricane season, now is the perfect time to revisit among other things your emergency communications plans.
The plans you have in place for reporting individual absenteeism to a supervisor or change in schedule or worksite plans for a team or department don’t necessary scale in the case of a pandemic or natural disaster so it’s important to have a documented and well thought out approach to what and how you will communicate with your staff.
Begin by identifying who tells what to whom.
If your business is going to be closed for the day, who makes that decision? If your business operations are going to be conducted elsewhere, who is in charge of making that decision and confirming the availability of that location? Once the decision has been made, who is responsible for notifying whom and by what manner and time? And in the instance where delicate details must be shared to explain why there is a change, who is responsible for crafting that message? Does it make sense and is it even possible to have something drafted in advance?
With the pandemic, we were fortunate enough to still have reliable communications channels so a simple plan for sharing messages via email, phone and text may be suitable, and a plan with some redundancy is appropriate. An executive recording of a message could be shared via an automated dialer or dropped into the voice mail boxes of all staff. The same language could be shared via email sent on behalf of that executive. Department managers could share the details or a link via text to their direct reports. And when appropriate, messages can be shared publicly via company Twitter or Facebook pages or privately via Slack or TEAMs channels.
Sending out a broadcast email or voice mail in the middle of the night works well when everyone has reliable internet but in the case of a storm, the internet may not be quite as reliable. It may be appropriate to notify local news stations reporting on the impact of disasters who will publish your updates to their sites and include in their programming. The installation of notices at the physical workplace or another agreed upon backup could be both necessary and appropriate.
The best time to review and update your Emergency Communications Plan is now. Use the questions in this brief to identify what’s required for your business so you can be prepared later.