How Communication Systems are Key to Hurricane Preparedness

By May 20, 2018 February 1st, 2019 Communications, Emergency Management

Hurricanes are fast, furious and can last for days. Are you prepared to effectively and efficiently communicate with your employees before, during, and after one hits?

The average life of a hurricane is nine days and it is most destructive during its first 12 hours onshore. As you think about preparing your business for a hurricane, you want to keep organizational communication top of mind to help mitigate losses and improve safety outcomes for your people

Implement a Communications System

As organizations conceive their hurricane preparedness and response plans, it’s vital to business continuity and employee engagement that communications are concise and streamlined on all fronts. Whether an organization needs to reach out to 10 people or 10,000, activating a quick, modern, and reliable communication system will help keep their people safe, informed, and prepared when the weather turns.

Related: What to Expect from Your Mass Notification System

The right mass communication solution serves as an important piece of your hurricane communications plan. It will allow you to check on your employees, let them know when they can return to work, and give them specific instructions per their job duties. Choose one that is intuitive and easy-to-use for all users. In today’s mobile world, making sure the system provides multi-channel and two-way communication is foundational, particularly when power and cellular service may be disrupted in a hurricane.

Channels include:

  • SMS text – perfect for quick communications
  • Mobile app push notifications – ideal for notifications that don’t require a response
  • Phone/voicemail – use for more detailed information with a callback number
  • Email – optimal when there is a lot of information, links, or attachments
  • Intranet – use Event Pages to keep incident-related information on one page
  • Social media – Excellent for enabling employees to communicate with each other
  • Custom channels – Fitting for organizations with non-traditional forms of communication

Being able to communicate across multiple channels simultaneously or individually ensures every employee receives the message on their preferred device, no matter what external forces are at play. Deliverability rates increase, allowing end users to respond and react immediately per instructions.

Maintain Your Employee’s Contact Information

It becomes a challenge to communicate with a team of people if employee contact data is inaccurate or outdated. A detailed hurricane communications plan will require that an organization gather, store, and update a large amount of contact data for those who will need to receive hurricane information. It is imperative that each user’s name, email address, cell phone number, direct office number, and office location are maintained and updated with any changes. There are multiple ways companies can ensure their communication system is updated with the correct data:

  • Upload an up-to-date CSV file
  • Manage/refresh your Active Directory sync
  • Leverage an API to sync with your HR system
  • Send a registration link to all of your people so they can update their own data

Related: Beat Hurricane Season with Emergency Notification Templates

Inform the Right People at the Right Time

In the event of a hurricane, organizations need to quickly identify the right audience for their messages. Hurricane communications should be sent to appropriate people or groups, including remote and lone workers, based on their proximity to the affected areas. For example, if there is a hurricane in Miami, administrators need to ensure only employees in or around Miami receive these critical messages.

Administrators should take the time beforehand to group together individuals based on their office location to better deploy location-based notifications. You can use grouping in many different scenarios, but leveraging location services during a hurricane is key to getting the relevant message to the right people quickly.

Subscribe to Sources

Sources are different media outlets and content producers that publish content relevant to your location and organizational operations. Examples of sources include the Weather Channel, NOAA, the National Hurricane Center, and local news stations and authorities. Sources of interest and relevance are encouraged to be subscribed to year-round. In particular, we suggest subscribing to sources that are specific to all of your company’s locations. These sources provide you with a real-time news feed so you can monitor relevant updates and warnings, and proactively notify your team when necessary.

Have a Set Hurricane Communications Plan

According to FEMA, nearly 40 percent of small businesses that close due to hurricanes and other weather-related damage never reopen. In order to avoid being another statistic, organizations need to prepare their people and businesses against the threats and dangers of hurricane season. A hurricane preparedness plan should be in place before a hurricane hits.

With a modern mass communications tool, organizations can get ahead of the storms and better execute their hurricane preparedness plans and procedures by:

  • Distributing company expectations for crisis communications
  • Providing guidance and instruction to employees
  • Empowering those involved to communicate from anywhere at any time

Having a clear and organized plan will eliminate chaos and help keep people safe.

Create Event Pages and Pre-Drafted Notification Templates

During a critical event, there isn’t always time to determine which group should receive an event notification or what the message should say. An event page acts as a central location where an organization can express need-to-know information and updates. You can do this in real time versus sending multiple mass notifications.

Event templates enable organizations to add event details and upload resources as part of an “event page shell.” Helpful items to include on an event page include visual photos of office or location damages, available resources, escape and evacuation routes, facilities with gas and water, and even elements that pertain to after the hurricane, such as office re-openings.

As admins craft their event page(s) around hurricane season, it is important to also draft hurricane notification templates around all possible outcomes ahead of time so organizations are one click away from warning and advising their people. In critical situations, organizations will need to deploy immediate notifications that effectively result in responses. Common types are:

  • Surveys that encourage audience engagement by asking, “Are you okay?”
  • Surveys around financial offerings
  • One-way broadcasts with current status
  • Notifications with read confirmations and office closures, remote access, or power outages

Hurricanes bring a lot of uncertainty to the table. You can have peace of mind, however, knowing you have a hurricane communications plan in place that can be activated at a moment’s notice.



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!