From natural disasters like hurricanes and floods to man-made tragedies such as terrorist attacks, unfortunate events can happen anytime in a workplace. Fortunately, more and more employers have realized the need to have an emergency preparedness program. From hospitals to start-ups to Fortune500 firms, we’re seeing many institutions employing communications systems in place to be able to prevent injuries, disruptions in business operations, and worst, loss of lives in the workplace.
Recent events back up this fact.
In Toronto, tour boat employees recently took part in an emergency preparedness drill. Employees were subjected to safety drills and exercises, taught life-saving exercises, and practiced evacuation procedures.
In Lake County, Florida, government employees underwent a mock hurricane scenario to determine how prepared they are in the event of a violent storm.
Aside from teaching employees safety drills and exercises, employers also understand how important it is to alert their workers during emergencies. Both internal and external communications are critical during an emergency.
Employee communication during an emergency is very important. In the event of a serious incident, it is up to the management to inform the staff as soon as possible so that employees can evacuate or seek shelter. This would be managed through emergency broadcast system alerts such as public address system, intranet, and desktop alerts.
Initial messages sent to the employees through emergency broadcast system alerts must be clear and succinct. If there are any directions for the employees to follow (like evacuating to the nearest fire exit), the message should be limited to one or two instructions. People are more likely respond to simple instructions during an emergency.
In most companies, there are already prepared templates for staff announcements. This would help avoid delays like approvals from management, and facilitate quick evacuation of employees from the office.
The emergency preparedness program will also detail how the PR department will get in touch with other stakeholders to provide status on the emergency. Also, contacting with external stakeholders during an emergency will give them reassurance that the company is on top of the crisis and managing it well.
Stakeholders include customers, suppliers, major stakeholders, utility firms, insurance company, and even neighboring businesses.
Because much focus would be on ensuring that employees in the office would get out of the premises safely, the communications plan should make it clear who in the PR team or emergency response team will be responsible for making contact with external stakeholders.
Relatives and friends of employees can also be considered as external stakeholders that the organization will have to deal with. More often than not, family and friends are more interested in updates because they will naturally be concerned about the safety of their loved ones. During large incidents, a hotline may be setup to provide details about the emergency. It may also be advisable to provide a script for individuals who are assigned to take calls.
A company may have emergency broadcast system alerts installed in the office for communicating with employees, but it should also have a team that will handle enquiries from the media. The staff should also be familiar with media handling to avoid the risk of providing inaccurate details.
The initial press release is usually short and contains only the available information such as nature of the incident, and updated status report. Later on, a formal statement that has more details on what happened, and what is being done about it should follow as long as information becomes available.
Emergencies can strike any business anytime. Thus it is only practical to have a communication plan during those times. From having emergency broadcast system alerts to approved procedures on dealing with the media, firms can mitigate damages brought about by man-made and natural disasters.