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Many British Columbians were forced to flee from their homes this summer due to the devastating wildfires that ravaged communities across the province. While the distressing effects to individuals affected by the mandatory evacuations may be apparent, something that might not be as obvious during these emergencies are the impacts on businesses, and what this means for employers. So how can organizations step up to the plate and support their employees, their communities, and their businesses when unpredictable and stressful emergency situations strike?

How can organizations support their employees & communities when unpredictable emergency situations strike? Twitter_logo_blue

Here are eight ways you can prepare yourself and your business for a disaster that could directly impact your employees and your community:

1. Have a plan in place. Having no plan at all is not an effective plan! Think proactively about how you would manage in a crisis situation that protects both your business and your employees. Think about all the various situations that could happen, including an emergency occurring during working hours, and have a plan in place so that everyone knows what to do in the event of an emergency. Invest in a survival kit for your office so that you have enough food, water, and first aid supplies to sustain you and your employees for at least 72 hours.

2. Prioritize the safety of your employees. While minimizing downtime for your business will be important, you’ll also need to assess the situation and make decisions that prioritize the safety of your employees. This could mean ensuring that everyone gets home safely or that they are not working around hazards.

3. Take care of your team. If financially viable, make sure that your employees aren’t faced with an interruption in their income if your business is closed, or they are unable to work – especially for reasons that fall outside of anyone’s control!

4. Set up your team to work remotely. If there was a situation that prevented employees from coming into the office, consider setting up your team to be able to work remotely, which could prevent downtime in your business. Flood in the office? No problem! Coffee shops and dining room tables can make great temporary workstations.

5. Protect your electronic information. There are many storage options available to safely store files, such as a cloud services or offsite, and setting this up ahead of a crisis is advisable. Having access to your files, even if you are unable to go back to your office, can be a lifeline for your business.

6. Invest in proper insurance. Having the peace of mind that your business is protected if the unthinkable happens will allow you to focus on what is most important in an emergency – staying safe!

7. Hit pause on your company’s social media posts. Often, organizations set up pre-scheduled posts that are set to publish on a future date. Consider postponing social media posts until after the disaster has been resolved. Instead, use your social media accounts to offer support and encouragement. Whether it’s providing a link to make donations to the Red Cross, or volunteering to provide practical support to your community, it’s during stressful times like these that businesses can really step up and provide assistance.

8. Support your local community. A recent example of how a company handled an unforeseen emergency occurred in the fall of 2016, when a local Victoria, BC business experienced a fire that required them to close their doors to undergo repairs. During this period, the business not only continued to pay their employees, but after re-opening, they brewed a signature craft beer as a thank you to the firefighters who helped save their business, with partial proceeds of the sales being donated to the Victoria Firefighter’s Charity Foundation.

Your Engaged HR Assignment: If your emergency kit is collecting dust (or is non-existent), or your fire extinguishers haven’t been checked by a professional, it may be time to call someone in to do an inspection. Take a look at this checklist so that you don’t miss an important step in preparing yourself and your business for an unforeseen emergency. As always, feel free to contact us if you need any assistance.

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