No one knows when an emergency will happen, but you can prepare yourself and your employees for what to do if one does occur.  Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve witnessed firsthand how organizations and individuals have been affected by it, from declining employee mental health to strained resources for organizations.  While I hope we never have to experience something like this again in our lifetime, it’s reminded me of the importance of emergency planning. 

When an emergency strikes, people in general require open and frequent communication, and structure in order to be safe physically and mentally.  In order to lessen the hardships experienced during emergency situations, I encourage you to consider these emergency planning tips to ensure your organization and employees feel prepared.

Prepare an Action Plan

Different emergencies can impact your organization and employees in different ways.  For this reason, consider the types of emergencies that may occur and create an action plan for each one.  While the purpose of an emergency plan should prioritize physical safety, I also recommend discussing how your organization would address the adverse effects that an emergency can have on your employees’ mental health and wellbeing.  For example, you may consider providing your employees with information for a crisis hotline, so they have access to immediate support in an emergency situation.

Have Mental Health Resources Accessible All Year Round

According to the World Health Organization, most people affected by emergencies will experience some form of distress, including feelings of anxiety or sadness, hopelessness, sleep difficulties, irritability and more.  Since we don’t know when an emergency situation will arise, it’s important that we have the necessary resources in place at all times to support our employees should one occur.  These resources may include an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), a crisis hotline, or additional HR supports.  Furthermore, I encourage you to promote these resources to your employees several times throughout the year so that they are continuously aware of their value.  When it comes to providing this information, be sure to communicate its benefits and not simply the information to access it.

Communicate Expectations in Advance

When an emergency occurs, emotions run high.  For this reason, it’s best to prepare your employees for an emergency by communicating expectations well in advance.  When communicating with your employees, I recommend using clear and consistent messages to lesson any misunderstandings or confusion.  Additionally, be sure to address any questions or concerns your employees may have and confirm their understanding of the procedures. They will have many questions so be sure to communicate how the organization will communicate to employees during an emergency. For example, you may use a company intranet, produce video messages to be viewed daily in emails, etc.

In order to keep our employees safe, emergency planning is a vital process that shouldn’t be delayed.  Should your employees require assistance during or after an emergency, ensure that in addition to the resources you may have in-house, that they are also referred to their Employee Assistance Program for support.