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Predicting the weather is something that human beings have been trying to master for centuries, with varying degrees of success in getting things right. Technology has helped to improve the accuracy of weather forecasting, but an inherent and unavoidable element of unpredictability still remains with this process.

Even when forecasters nail the outcome with accurate predictions, the resultant bad weather can still lead to a perfect storm of logistical challenges for organizations. One key priority that should be top of mind, when the threat of bad weather is imminent, is to make sure your organization has a suitable inclement weather and emergency notification policy in place, as this plays a critical part in protecting employees while at the same time ensuring there is no significant disruption to normal business operations.

Here are 3 important steps that you should consider as part of your business continuity plan to help your employees and your business to weather any kind of storm: 

Step 1) Have a Plan, and Maintain it: 

It seems kind of obvious, but there are many businesses that don’t have inclement weather plans in place. In fact, a full 68 percent of small businesses don’t have disaster plans, per data collected by Nationwide. Even worse, more than half say it would take them at least three months to fully recover from a disaster- this is a significant vulnerability for the health and success of any business! 

Experts attribute this lack of planning and preparation to unwarranted complacency. Most small business owners severely underestimate the chance of a storm impacting their business for one misguided reason: Because it hasn’t happened YET As a result, inclement weather plans are often viewed as low priorities when they’re evaluated against the more of the immediate mission-critical tasks. 

Unfortunately, IF and WHEN a disaster does strike, an inclement weather plan may be the only thing that stands between your business and its demise. And even in the cases where companies actually do have inclement weather plans in place, they shouldn’t consider themselves ‘out of the woods’, as their plans are often very outdated. It’s also important to keep in mind that inclement weather plans don’t just address disasters, they also cover other weather phenomenon which can impact both the health and wellness of your employees as well as business continuity. For example, an ice storm may not qualify as a “disaster,” but it can still cause your business operations to come screeching to an expensive halt.  

Step 2) Get the Word Out- Communicate with Employees Early and Often, and Monitor their Statuses:

Communication is such a critical part of any inclement weather plan that it certainly deserves its own category. Aside from helping to keep employees safe when weather conditions warrant action, prompt, accurate and comprehensive automated notifications and notification software can also serve as an invaluable employee morale-booster. For example, what employee would object to being instructed by their company to remain safe in their home, rather than slip and slide all the way into work on a snow-covered treacherous road just to find out that their office is closed for the day when they arrive? 

To ensure the success of any inclement weather plan, an organization must have a clearly delineated policy defining :
  • WHO is responsible to announce closures and other weather-related information
  • HOW that information is to be shared with the appropriate audience(s)
  • WHAT timeframe(s) these important communications need to be sent out by the company

So, you’re probably wondering, what’s the most efficient and effective approach to communicate with employees to tell them whether or not they should report to work during bad weather situations 

While phone trees might have been the only choice historically, today’s organizations have a multitude of options they can leverage to get in touch with their people. But with these options come increased responsibility, as your employees will be far less likely to let you off the hook if they don’t receive an essential piece of information. Especially if a lack of corporate communication results in the employee performing unnecessarily actions, or, worse yet, puts them in harm’s way. 

Digital technology has changed how we communicate, but not always for the better. After all, email can be slow and not interruptive enough. Social media is fast, but not everyone uses it. The fact is, different people have very different behaviors and, as a result, different preferences for how they receive information. 

Enter today’s automated messaging systems such as Sungard AS’ Assurance Notification Manager (AssuranceNM) solution; instead of choosing a single, one-size-does-NOT-fit-all approach, an automated messaging service can give you the choice of how you want to target people, or the recipients can specify how they prefer to receive messages. They can choose to receive the message on their cell, home, or work phone. Perhaps they prefer text messages too, or text alerts exclusively, their choice can be configured as well. Not only does this minimize the chance that an individual will miss an essential message, but it simultaneously maximizes safety and provides recipient satisfaction by giving them the option to specify their preferred communication channels. 

There are other benefits to using an automated notification system, such as situations when only a few essential personnel are needed. In this case, the system can be used to automatically contact one person at a time, and after the appropriate number of people have responded affirmatively, the calling will stop altogether, preventing unnecessary solicitation for shifts that have already been filled. So, while the process of managing and assembling a skeleton shift may have been a very time consuming and labor-intensive in the past, an automated notification system can seamlessly streamline this task for you. As an added bonus, employees, whether contacted via email, text or phone call, can reply from any device and these replies are automatically aggregated into one easy-to digest report to account for each and every employee’s status and their safety. 

Step 3) Assess and Understand Your Business’s Liability:

All businesses struggle with the decision of whether or not to close when bad weather is predicted. After all, deciding to shut down for the day can be a costly move in the short term. However, closing your business during bad weather can actually save you money when you factor in data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealing that in 2015 alone there were more than 1.15 million days-away-from-work cases due to non-fatal occupational injuries and illnesses resulting in an average of 8 median days off of work to recuperate. 

In other words, there is significant risk in staying open if it puts your employees at physical risk, and this may be the best-case scenario. Worst case? Depending on the laws of your state and the specifics of the situation, you may even be held liable if an accident does occur. 

On a related note, there is also the issue of pay. Pay practices for inclement weather may vary depending on local, state and federal regulations as well as the classification of exempt and non-exempt employees. The more you understand about your business’s liability, insurance, and other related factors, the more informed decisions you can make regarding inclement weather openings, closings and delays.  

Before you can even hope to achieve the best outcome during inclement weather situations and weather disasters, you must first understand what the best outcomes are and how to achieve them. If safe, informed and satisfied employees are part of your organizational goals, the combination of an inclement weather plan and automated notification system can certainly help you to achieve them. Just make sure to also do your liability homework so you know exactly what your organization is responsible for, so you can avoid any surprises that could potentially compromise your company’s key objectives to manage through the wrath of Mother Nature or other disastrous situations. 

For industry tips and to keep up-to-date in the evolving software space, subscribe to the Assurance Software blog. 

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Topics: Emergency Notification

Joe Field

Written by Joe Field

Joe has been with Assurance Software for over 14 years and has over 20 years of Software Industry and Customer Service experience. He has worked in a number of pivotal roles during his time at Assurance, including Customer Support Team lead, Senior Software Implementation Specialist, and his current position as Senior Product Manager of Emergency Notifications. Joe is responsible for collaborating with Assurance customers and working closely with his Assurance Software group colleagues and technology partners to enhance our products, address customer business challenges, and to deliver additional value through premier product solutions. Outside of the office, Joe enjoys spending time with his wife and family, hiking, mountain biking, trail running, working on home improvement projects, and entertaining audiences when mixing music as a Disc Jockey.

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