By: FEI Behavioral Health

October 12, 2017 

On Friday, Aug. 25, the city of Houston, TX, experienced unprecedented flooding as Hurricane Harvey made landfall. Originally a Category 4 hurricane, Harvey’s shift to tropical storm unleashed rainfall of up to over two feet in some parts of the city and its surrounding areas. With more rain on the way, Texas cities near Houston and southwestern Louisiana braced for additional floodwaters. On Sept. 9, all eyes were glued to the news as Hurricane Irma made her three-day trek through Florida, again bringing flooding and destruction in her path.

FEI understands weather emergencies are overwhelming for all involved, so we’ve compiled a list of critical resources that may be useful during and after a storm. In the past, FEI has provided support to many families and organizations affected by disasters while emphasizing the efforts of many to support those who are suffering.

Most major weather events have specific actions that need to be taken in preparation, response and recovery. We recommend reviewing previous crisis management entries on surviving without electricity and flash flooding as well as preparing for severe weather and what to do in the event of a hurricane.

Businesses and Organizations

After 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, human resources and other organizational stakeholders focused on several core competencies when responding to weather-related crises of magnitude:

  • Establishing an emergency helpline for employees.
  • Establishing an emergency call center with toll-free number (typically, the area codes of affected areas are often not operational).
  • Educating employees on out-of-network benefit coverage since they may be evacuated or relocated out of their network of medical support.
  • Facilitating the ability to work remotely or at alternate sites.
  • Creating mobile office spaces.

Organizations affected by disasters must respond to disaster-related demands by relocating their operations if facilities are damaged while using other coping strategies to minimize further disruption. How you stay connected with staff and communicate updates on operations is absolutely critical. Keep in mind that communication needs to be a two-way street: Providing updates to your staff on the organization as staff provide updates on their availability to work.

Employers should use all communication resources available to disseminate information. Provide employees updates on company status, expected hours of operation, facility reopening, temporary work locations, business units resuming immediate operations, and the services and benefits available to them. Using multiple methods of communication will ensure employees in various locations are contacted.

Recorded hotlines can be a resource for regular updates to employees. Emergency notification systems, which eliminate the labor intensive and inefficient features of traditional telephone call trees and utilize few personnel resources, can be beneficial in broadcasting company-wide information and instructions. These systems broadcast messages to individual employees via home phone, cell phone, email, etc.

Intranet resources also facilitate communication to large numbers of employees in multiple locations. Links to official websites for local news stations, emergency management and weather-related sites should be added to the company intranet. Readily accessible links to external, legitimate sources will provide employees with additional information and confirmation of warnings.

Any information received from employees should be tracked, and regular reports should be submitted to company management and supervisors. Please refer to our resource on accounting for people when locating employees and their loved ones. Using tools like Facebook’s “Safety Check” feature offer another great way to keep up with employees, friends and family members during severe weather events.

In addition, using the organization’s employee assistance program (EAP) will also connect you and your employees to the resources they need in times of crisis, including destructive storm systems. EAP is available 24/7.

Additional Resources for Employers and Employees

While the following represent available resources, it is strongly encouraged that organizations locate their designated disaster recovery center. The center will be able to provide additional information on available resources and help employees and their families apply for aid.

Per the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), individuals should only call 911 if there is an immediate need for medical attention or evacuation assistance. If you can't get through to 911 on first try, keep calling. Another option is to place a call to the local Command Center of the United States Coast Guard.

The Red Cross offers a list of open shelters and can be reached by calling 877-500-8645.

As the fallout from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma continue, FEI sends heartfelt support to the organizations and people who continue to deal with this devastating