Severe Weather Approaching? How to Prepare Your Office and Team

Severe weather can sideline your company, leaving both your employees and clients confused and struggling.

Having a plan in place to address weather warnings, such as tornadoes and hurricanes, ensures everyone knows what to do to remain safe. Here’s what you need to do in order to properly prepare:

Create a Business Continuity Plan

Creating a business continuity plan is your first step. This means a step-by-step process of communicating information to management and employees in the event of a severe weather event.

Establish how you will communicate about weather updates — whether it’s by phone or e-mail — and what your work from home policy is in these situations. Remind current staff of the protocol via a company-wide e-mail or staff meeting, and make this information part of new employee orientation.

Have an Action Plan

If sudden weather hits, your company needs to have an action plan. To create one, first answer these questions:

  • Where will employees go for shelter?
  • What actions should be taken (and who should take them) to protect employees?
  • Do employees know how to find and use fire extinguishers?
  • Are there clearly marked exit signs?
  • Where will employees meet outside the office, to account for everyone?

Design an emergency plan that addresses each of these areas of concern. While you can prepare your office for a hurricane days in advance upon receiving a severe weather warning, it’s not possible to do that in the event of a sudden weather event. This is when such planning becomes essential.

Establish Rules for Payment

If the office can’t open, should you pay your employees? Federal guidelines don’t require this, though some states may. Your company should outline what your plans are in advance of such instances, and alert team members about the protocol.

Likewise, after such an event, there may be liability concerns to work through. It’s a good idea to consult with your insurance carrier to outline such possibilities so you can make the best decision. Additionally, consider steps you can take to minimize risks. This may include, for instance, ensuring the walkways are clear of ice.

Communication, Communication, Communication

Establish a specific form of communication to use with employees during and after a weather event. This could be a check-in system where employees contact a set person — such as your HR professional — to discuss their situation, needs and ability to work. Additionally, if your business uses a website or blog to communicate, update it to include any relevant information.

Employees affected by weather events may need some support. Legally, you may have no obligation to keep jobs open for them for extended periods of time, but doing so is a sign of compassion. If employees are hurt or their immediate family is facing a health crisis, the Family Medical Leave Act can be deployed, if requested. It requires you to maintain their job for up to 12 weeks.

It’s not possible to mitigate all risks in severe weather events, but you can take steps to safeguard your employees. In most cases, severe weather plans like these give employees a sense of security.