Disaster Preparedness in the Workplace – It’s More Than Duck and Cover

Recent earthquakes in California have highlighted the fact that employers must be prepared for emergencies and natural disasters. In this week’s episode of The Workplace, CalChamber President and CEO Allan Zaremberg is joined by CalChamber Executive Vice President and General Counsel Erika Frank to discuss ways employers can prepare for all kinds of emergencies, including fires, floods, power outages and weather events, and the two give an overview of employers’ responsibilities during times of crisis.

Have a Plan in Case of Emergency

“One of the first things that employers should really think about is having an emergency action plan,” Frank tells Zaremberg.

Earthquake and fire drills may take time during the workday, but they also can save lives in case of an emergency at the workplace.

Additionally, employers need to make sure their employees are informed of the plan and know what to do in an emergency. Having someone communicate with employees during a natural disaster to let them know whether to come to work is crucial to keeping everyone safe.

It also is important to consider if there are employees who can work remotely, without a brick-and-mortar location. In the event of an emergency in which employees are unable to report to work, employers should consider whether work can be done from home.

“One thing that really has to be on the forefront of employers’ minds, despite everything else that is happening in a time of disaster, is ‘what is our obligation to our employees?’ We have an obligation to maintain a healthy and safe workplace,” Frank explains.

Keep Everyone Informed

During a natural disaster, employers must stay connected with their employees to let them know whether to report to work, or what to do in case the workplace is inaccessible.

For hourly employees who may be able to work remotely during a natural disaster or emergency, employers must communicate that there is still the obligation to clock in and out, and take rest breaks and meal breaks.

“The messaging that the employer needs to convey to those employees is, ‘it is as if you are at work,’” Frank emphasizes. “All of the rules still apply.”

Regardless of the size of the business, employers should formulate a plan for emergencies that accounts for all employees and the company’s data and resources.

“Human resources is a great place to start with formulating your emergency action plan, working with management and trying to assess what things can you prepare for in the event of the unexpected,” says Frank.

Data Protection

Another thing employers need to consider when preparing for a natural disaster or emergency is how to protect data, credit card storage and employee records. Having a server on-site may not be the best way to keep all the confidential information safe from a fire or flood if it were to hit the office. Off-site servers can protect the data even if a natural disaster were to hit the workplace.

“A disaster plan that deals with technology and data is really important for everybody,” says Zaremberg.

For employers, having a plan to protect their employees and the company’s data ensures a safer workplace in case of emergency.