NOAA recently released their 2020 hurricane predictions and the Atlantic and Gulf coasts are expected to have an above-normal season. The well-respected team of hurricane forecasters from Colorado State agree—predicting a season that is 50% more severe than average, when it comes to major hurricanes. When you add in the uncertainty and disruption caused by the pandemic, the end result is a hurricane season that could be unprecedented in its potential for destruction.
As businesses and organizations craft their hurricane preparedness plans, it is vital to business continuity and employee safety that hurricane communications are relevant and can be sent rapidly as conditions change. The fastest way to ensure every employee receives the right message at the right time is to utilize hurricane notification templates. Modern emergency communications solutions will provide templates that companies can send across all communication channels, including email, text, push notifications and phone calls.
How to Use Your Hurricane Notification Templates
In the midst of hurricane season, the Atlantic and Gulf coasts are usually on high alert. Organizations that have an emergency notification system and hurricane notification templates in place will be able to react quickly during the arrival of any storm. When putting your hurricane notification template together, you will want to focus on these core elements of a template:
The Notification Type
When you send a notification, consider the type of engagement that you expect from the message recipients.
- Create basic notifications for a one-way broadcast to the audience.
- Utilize surveys or read-receipt notifications to encourage audience engagement.
- Leverage conference call notifications to get an audience to collaborate on the phone to discuss issues in real time.
The Channel Type
Hurricane notification templates should have messages delivered across all channels—text, phone call, app pushes, emails, and any other communication channel the organization uses to get critical messages to an audience. To guarantee message delivery, take advantage of all of the channels at your fingertips.
Specific messages can be prewritten for each action plan in an emergency plan. Be succinct and provide clear instructions to keep employees safe.
Use read-receipts to verify the intended audience has received the message. This verification step ensures the recipient received the message, is safe, and is able to respond.
You should also consider the channel type when composing the message. For example, the maximum length of an SMS message is 918 characters and will be broken up if it’s longer than 160 characters. So a text should be short and to-the-point, whereas an email can be longer and detailed. A great use of SMS in alerts might be to point the recipient to an event page which will have more details (see below)
An emergency is not the time to figure out who should receive a certain message. When a notification template is used, it is easy to select the appropriate recipients for each message. This capability also ensures employees outside of the danger area aren’t bothered with irrelevant messages and only the employees in harm’s way receive the critical communications.
Use a tool like AlertMedia to create an event-specific website landing page. This “event” page will allow administrators to manage communications during the entire lifecycle of the hurricane, posting updates continually through the warning, during the storm, and the aftermath. Keeping all notifications related to an event in one place allows employees to easily see all of the latest instructions and historical updates related to the hurricane, improving coordination and outcomes.
Hurricane Notification Templates Offer Fast, Reliable Messaging
Hurricane notification templates are the best way to communicate with detailed messages to employees throughout the lifecycle of a hurricane. As you build the templates ahead of time, keep in mind there are three distinct phases of a hurricane, each with its own messaging requirements. Email is best when sending lengthy instructions or information. You should send shorter messages via text and push notifications, particularly in more urgent situations.
Before The Storm
Thanks to science and technology, we now have more warning of an impending hurricane. While the path of the hurricane often shifts, we typically have several days-warning to prepare. This is the ideal time to send a message to employees in the potential path of the storm about the expected track of the hurricane, what impacts are anticipated, how employees should respond, and where to find additional information. As the hurricane nears and conditions change, you can continue to update the messages.
Example via email: “[NAME OF CITY] is in the projected path of Hurricane [NAME]. As the storm progresses we will provide updates about office closures, evacuations, and more. If you are currently working remotely from a location other than your listed home address, please reply to this email with your current location.
As we get closer to the storm, taking home your computers/chargers and any other items necessary to complete your job is a good idea in case of unplanned office closures.
Please contact your supervisor about any questions or concerns you have. You can also reply to this email or call [CONTACT NAME AND PHONE] with any questions and concerns.”
Example via text: “We’re in the projected path of Hurricane [NAME]. Stay tuned for updates on office closures, evacuations, and more.”
During The Storm
During a typical hurricane season, a major hurricane will force most employees to either stay in a shelter or shelter with friends outside of the danger zone. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, mass shelters might no longer be a safe option. Your employees may be even more dispersed than in a typical season (when most evacuees often flock to a safe major city nearby). In any event, they might not be too concerned with work. They will be watching the news outlets and waiting out the storm—trying to determine when it is safe to return. This is the perfect time to send concise, thoughtful messages that simply affirm the company is concerned with their safety. Make it clear that you are not concerned with employees coming back to the office until it is safe, and you understand if it takes some time.
Example via text: “Due to severe weather caused by Hurricane [NAME], the [LOCATION] office will be closed on [DAY OF WEEK AND DATE]. For the latest updates, visit [LINK TO EVENT PAGE]”
Example push notification: “We’re offering assistance to [COMPANY NAME] employees to prepare for Hurricane [NAME]. Check your company email for more information.”
After The Storm
Once the storm has passed, it’s time to check in with employees and begin the business recovery plan. Hurricane email templates and surveys are an effective way to continue communications post-hurricane. Surveys are a fast way to gain insight into the status of employees and facilities, next steps from management, and who is able to return to work.
Example of email: “The severe weather from Hurricane [NAME] has moved out of our area and our office will be reopening, [DAY OF WEEK AND DATE] for regular hours.
If you are not currently approved to work remotely, please contact your supervisor if you can’t make it into the office to make arrangements. If you have other questions or concerns, reach out to [CONTACT NAME AND EMAIL].”
Example of survey questions: “Do you require any assistance?” “Are you able to return to work in 2 days?” “Did your office sustain any damage?” “Was any of your critical technology damaged?”
Measure Your Effectiveness
Post-event, you should assess every plan, particularly your emergency plan, for its effectiveness. Review the performance of your notifications and messages to see what channels and messages employees responded to most effectively. Determine how long each message took to send and if there were any bounce backs. If so, ensure the employee contact information is accurate. A modern mass notification system will provide you with reports that provide insights into these details in order to continually improve execution.
Take advantage of surveys to go straight to the source, asking recipients of those messages if they were effective, if they received them in good time, and which channel they preferred. This will this help you craft better messages and send them more efficiently next time. It will also engage employees and make them part of the improvement process.
Hurricanes are fast and furious. Make sure your communications during a hurricane can keep up by using templates for as many anticipated scenarios as possible. An effective emergency communication system will be flexible enough to enable the use of templates as well as on-the-fly messaging. Both options, however, should be able to send messages quickly to predetermined employee lists that are grouped by location and/or job function. By keeping messages relevant to the intended audience, sent in a timely manner across as many channels as possible, companies can ensure they are doing everything they can to protect employees during this busy hurricane season.
Looking for help on crafting hurricane communications for your business? We’ve created a set of templates that will help you craft messaging for all phases of a hurricane. Click this button to download now!