A Hurricane Communication Plan is Key to Being Prepared

By June 25, 2019 September 17th, 2019 Communications, Emergency Management
hurricane communication plan

Hurricanes are fast, furious and can last for days. Do you have a hurricane communication plan that you can use 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. Doing so will help mitigate losses and improve safety outcomes.

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.

The right mass communication solution is an important piece of your hurricane communication plan. It will allow you to check on your employees, let them know when they can return to work, and give them specific instructions regarding 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 vital–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

Communication is challenging when employee contact data is inaccurate or outdated. A detailed hurricane communication 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

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. Identify the relevant sources to your business and subscribe to them year-round. In particular, we recommend subscribing to sources that are specific to each of your company’s locations. A modern mass communication system can organize these sources into a real-time news feed so you can monitor relevant updates and warnings, and proactively notify your team when necessary.

Have a Set Hurricane Communication Plan

According to FEMA, nearly 40 percent of small businesses that close due to hurricanes and other weather-related damage never reopen. No small business wants to be part of that statistic. To avoid that worst-case-scenario, organizations need to prepare ahead of time for 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 communication plan 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 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, instead of sending multiple mass notifications.

Event templates enable organizations to add event details and upload resources to one web-page. This event page becomes the hub for the most up-to-date information on the hurricane. Instead of sending out a mass notification with each non-essential update, you can simply direct employees to the event page. Helpful items to include on an event page include photos of office or location damages, available resources, escape and evacuation routes, facilities with gas and water, and information for 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, so organizations are one click away from warning and advising their people. In critical situations, organizations can then deploy immediate notifications that will elicit helpful responses. Common types are:

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

Executing a Hurricane Communication Plan: Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center

As Hurricane Harvey approached the Texas coast in August 2017, many businesses started to scramble. Many did not have their hurricane communication plans in order. Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center, though, knew they already had a plan. For the past year, they had been developing a hurricane communication plan and testing it using AlertMedia, their mass communication system. So, when Hurricane Harvey hit, they simply had to execute.

Maintaining business continuity throughout the hurricane was critically important for Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center. Its headquarters in Houston serves the Texas Gulf Coast region as well as the Texas Medical Center, the largest medical center in the world, with timely deliveries of blood. There’s always a need for blood to hospitals who use blood products daily. But that need is never more pronounced than in the throes of a life-impacting crisis. During Hurricane Harvey, the Blood Center’s services were more important than ever.

Their first step was to use AlertMedia’s conference call feature, to immediately connect key stakeholders to discuss necessary plans and procedures. Then, the Blood Center used status updates to connect with and account for all their team members. Based on their responses, they were able to coordinate scheduling, determine who had the all-clear to come into work, and identify who might need assistance.

Thanks to uninterrupted communications, the Blood Center was able to coordinate plans for continued blood delivery to hospitals. They were also able to inform staff of canceled drives and when they’d reopen. With facilities spanning the Gulf Coast Region, AlertMedia played a vital role in keeping the entire center operational during Hurricane Harvey. Beyond helping the Blood Center navigate one of the costliest disasters in U.S. history, AlertMedia has proved to be an invaluable ongoing resource.

Crafting Your Plan

It can feel overwhelming to start a hurricane communication plan from scratch. Start by finding modern a mass communication system that fits the needs of your organization. Then upload communication templates and discuss with key stakeholders what procedures make the most sense for your company. Even if you don’t plan out every contingency, having templates ready, along with a general plan, will go a long way when a hurricane does threaten business continuity.

Hurricanes bring a lot of uncertainty to the table. You can have peace of mind, however, knowing you have a hurricane communication plan 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!