Hurricane and fire season, in addition to periods known for extreme flooding, are just around the corner. We know that severe weather is coming – and employers need to prepare now for the reality of natural disasters amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The best practice for preparing for natural disasters is establishing emergency response plans (ERPs), and several organizations may already have these plans in place. But very few have developed plans with built-in provisions for natural disaster preparedness during a pandemic.
Why Organizations Need to Prepare for Natural Disasters
Tornadoes have already devastated communities in Iowa, Louisiana, Tennessee and Mississippi this spring and experts with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predict widespread flooding in 23 states.
Hurricane predictors at Colorado State University anticipate 16 named storms transforming into at least eight hurricanes with a good probability of impacting communities across the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico this year.
Moreover, private organizations will have an even greater responsibility for protecting employees given that federal, state and local government resources will be deployed to COVID-19 response. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has 3,000 out of its 20,000 employees dedicated to mitigating the virus, and lawmakers have begun asking how they plan to respond to natural disasters simultaneously. Studies demonstrate and experts warn that counties and cities are losing and will lose billions in taxpayer revenue, limiting their budgets and resources available.
What Your Organization Can Do Now
With so many Americans working from home now and likely into the future, be prepared to think differently about protecting your employees. Key steps you can take to prepare for the 2020 natural disaster season during this pandemic include the following.
- Update emergency response plans to account for anticipated COVID-19 resource losses, or create an emergency response plan that includes provisions for COVID-19
- Leverage technology to develop a virtual emergency response team
- Host virtual emergency response meetings with employees sheltering at home
- Remind employees to create or update their family emergency plans
- Encourage employees to join local and state emergency warning systems
- Develop and issue personal and family preparedness checklists to employees working at home
- Survey employees to identify resources gaps and major concerns and build an online emergency response community with employees to address the current COVID-19 crisis and prepare for the most likely natural disaster to impact their community
By taking these steps, you will be able to assist your employees and – and literally – weather the storm.