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Winter Weather Hazards: How to Prepare and Protect Your Business

By Alex Vaccaro, AlertMedia:

More than any other season, winter brings a variety of unique threats to business continuity. Blizzards. Icy roads. Even an increased risk of fires. Let’s discuss how your business can minimize the impact of these risks by preparing ahead and communicating effectively during every phase of a storm.

Impact of Winter Weather
The reality is, winter storms are not just a nuisance—they’re costly. Winter storms set businesses back around $300 billion each year. These costs come from various sources; icy roads, cancelled flights, slip-and-fall accidents, and cold-related injuries (like hypothermia) are the most common.

But it’s important to also keep in mind the many indirect costs. Make sure to consider the impact of school delays/closures, longer emergency response times, and seasonal affective disorder.

Given that 70% of the United States population lives in snowy and icy areas, winter weather regularly impacts the vast majority of businesses. But the other 30% are not off the hook. Businesses located in areas not accustomed to winter storms are often the most underprepared when they do come.

Preparing for Severe Weather
Preparation before severe weather is forecasted is critical. Take these steps to make sure your business is ready for what’s ahead:

  • Identify major threats – Threats will vary by company and by region. Whether the biggest threats to your organization are seasonal illnesses, ice, or flight delays/cancellations, it is vital that you know which issues directly impact your company.
  • Define responsibilities – In order to properly respond to a winter storm, you must have clearly delineated responsibilities both within the company and with external parties. On the internal side, make sure you have employees assigned to take charge of employee safety, facilities, and employee communication. On the external side, be aware of contract obligations, insurance coverage, landlord responsibilities, and product delivery.
  • Plan for each threat – Ensure you have a system in place for sending out weather alerts, temporarily closing the business, and stocking the appropriate supplies.
  • Rehearse your action plan – Based on the time, resources, and size of your company, choose the proper rehearsal strategy to train your employees and recap at the end to identify potential improvements.
  • Monitor the world around you – It’s critical to keep an eye on the threats that winter brings. Look for tools that can help you proactively monitor threats and send messages quickly based on changing information.

How to Effectively Communicate During a Winter Storm
Once the storm is approaching, it’s time to implement your action plan and begin communicating with your employees. Here is how you should plan to communicate during each phase:

  • Approach of Storm – As the storm is approaching, it’s important to set expectations. Do you plan on closing the office? If so, for how long? Will it be safe to drive? Are travel plans being reevaluated? These are all questions that will be in your employees’ minds. Put yourself in their shoes and be as comprehensive as possible in answering the questions they’ll want answered. For this communication, email is likely the best channel since you’ll have a lot of information to convey. It’s also important to set expectations as to where you will provide updates for the duration of the storm. Modern employee communication systems will offer event pages so you can link your employees to a dedicated web page specific to an event.
  • Arrival of Storm – Once the storm arrives, your employees should know what to do (based on the information you provided in your email), but it’s still important to reach out to check if any of your employees need assistance. You can also provide brief safety tips if appropriate. This communication should be kept short, so SMS is a great channel to use.
  • After the Storm – After the storm has passed, it’s time to get back to (regular) work. Let your employees know that the office is ready to re-open, and they can report back the next day. You may want to survey employees to identify anyone who is unable to make it back in. Some roads (especially in rural areas) may be unsafe to drive even after the storm has passed.
  • To save yourself time in the moment, it’s best to create communication templates ahead of time. Having templates prepared will keep you from having to craft messaging on the fly—when you are unlikely to be able to find the best words.

By taking these steps to prepare and communicating effectively during severe weather, your business can minimize the cost of winter storms and maximize employee productivity during the difficult winter months. Make sure your organization has the tools and plans in place to navigate this season as smoothly as possible.

About the Author: Alex Vaccaro is vice president of marketing at AlertMedia, the fastest-growing mass notification provider in the world, offering intuitive mobile and web applications that help organizations reach any audience, over any communication channel, anywhere in the world. Shecan be reached at alex.vaccaro@alertmedia.com or 800 826-0777.

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