As I looked at my appointment calendar this week, I didn't have an earthquake and a hurricane on my to-do list, but I certainly had to deal with the aftermath, or shock, of one and the preparations for the other. Mother Nature is just one of the business disruptions that life throws at you. How do you keep your employees focused when a major event occurs?
Like being a good scout, preparation is key. The time to think about how to react to a crisis or a natural disaster is now, not when you are in the middle of one. As someone who has managed through both natural and man-made disasters, there is no substitute for not only having a plan, but making sure your team knows it.
First things first: make sure everyone is safe and accounted for. Know what you should do in the event an emergency occurs in the office. Communicate where your employees should go if they have to evacuate during working hours.
Have a list of all your employees' phone numbers and addresses that you can take with you. Don't count on cell phones or PDAs working. Have a paper list that includes a back up way to find people if the cell service and email aren't available.
Make sure everyone knows where they should go if they can't get to the office, or it is unsafe to access. Locate an alternate location ahead of time.
Do your employees have access to the information they will need if your office is inaccessible? Do they have access to email and necessary customer information? Even if you can't conduct business, you can at least communicate with your customers to let them know what is happening and when you will be back to business as usual.
People perform best when they have clear direction, and that includes responding to emergencies. Have a plan, practice it, and your employees will impress you with their ability to respond in the most difficult of times.