Hurricane Floyd was just the latest of the reminders that companies receive from time to time to keep theirdisaster plans up to date. It's an important reminder -- 60% of businesses that do not have disaster plans, also known as business continuity plans, do not reopen their doors, according to North American Emergency Management (NAEM).
Companies that do disaster planning generally are concerned about finding backup facilities and suppliersand about safely storing computer records. That leaves HR with a special responsibility, says FrankSchober, CEO of NAEM. "HR has to take care of the people. They have to urge people to be prepared athome because if they are affected, they won't be able to come to work."
Schober recommends that companies develop programs that give them confidence that their employees willbe prepared at home if disaster strikes.
Ensuring Employee Well-Being
Philip Jan Rothstein, president of Rothstein Associates, agrees that "the HR realm is employee well-being."Many disaster plans may have carefully thought out what to do about saving data but are not realistic aboutthe needs of the people involved, he says. That starts with evacuation plans. "If there is smoke orfire, people should be told to vacate the premises. Do not have a list of 12 things people are expected to dobefore going out the door. What kind of message about safety does that send employees?"
It's up to HR to make sure the evacuation plan and the follow-up plans are geared to human realities. "Some plans expect employees to work 24 hours straight, never mind sleep," he says.
Or a plan may call for key employees to immediately hop on a plane to fly to a site where data can berecovered. "HR has to be the ones to look at whether these people are single parents or care givers" facingtheir own crises at home.
His advice is "walk a mile in someone's shoes. Read through the plan and participate in the exerciseprocess. Ask: What can we do to make these people functional? What is prudent? What is safe? In mostorganizations HR's role tends to be minor. That's not the way it should be."
A company should have a telephone system with an external 800 number that employees can call after acrisis. Companies also can use local radio to alert employees about whether or where they should report towork.
The company should keep adequate petty cash available for emergency food and supplies for employeesspending long hours at work, says Rothstein. Some companies even keep special medical supplies on hand.
Getting Workers Involved