Remnants of a Storm By: Angela Davis Clark, Director of Human Resources 5 As I write this article, it’s raining outside because of the remnants of Hurricane Irma. We also received rain last week due to the remnants of Hurricane Harvey. Hurricane Irma devastated Florida and Hurricane Harvey devastated Texas. Both Florida and Texas received measurable amounts of rain, wind and storm surge which caused inconceivable devastation and destruction. Federal, State, local, military, crisis, public safety and emergency management agencies have not had a chance to recover and regroup before having to shift gears from one hurricane to the other. As I witnessed the devastation and destruction being shown on television, it caused me to reevaluate my preparedness for such a crisis, both personally and professionally. The tragedy of the hurricanes has not only affected personal livelihoods and property, but it has also had a devastating impact on employers. Not only is there significant physical damage and destruction, there appears to be an enormous effect on emotional well-being. I can’t even imagine the stress levels associated with going from a comfortable lifestyle -- and overnight -- being concerned about whether all of your family members are safe, whether you’ll have a safe place to live, whether you’ll have a job (paycheck and benefits), and whether you’ll be able to tend to other basic necessities – all at the same time. The managers at the JCCO just recently attended safety training. We discussed how to respond to an active shooter situation, fires, tornadoes, floods, civil disturbances, bomb threats, and explosions. Our focus during that training was how we could keep employees and customers safe while either evacuating the building or while staying in place due to an inability to evacuate. But, that training doesn’t even touch the surface for the planning and actions needed to take place for this type of crisis. How an employer navigates through a significant crisis can have a lasting impact on business operations, its reputation, and more importantly, its employee’s confidence in the company during challenging times. We, as leaders, need to understand our role in a crisis, and we must have a plan of immediate action. One of our priorities during a crisis would be effective communications. Effective communications would help to ensure that employees are fully informed, promote unity and teamwork, facilitate the restoration of workforce productivity, ensure worker safety, and minimize damage to the agency reputation. The formation of leadership teams could help facilitate effective communication and restoration. Those leadership teams are usually comprised of (but not limited to) senior management, operations, security, human resources, finance, communications, and information technology. Employers should not depend on only one form of communication to disseminate information. Various modes of communication, such as landline or mobile phones, text, email, company websites and social media should be utilized. The goal is to disseminate information to a large audience simultaneously to reduce miscommunication and innuendo. By communicating effectively, it would hopefully ease concerns about pay, benefits, resources, and the potential for returning to a safe work environment. Under all circumstances, employers must ensure compliance with Federal, State, and local employment laws as we respond to these types of crisis. During natural disasters, employers must ensure that the safety of their employees is always the top priority. They should solicit reports about the safety, well-being, and needs of their employees. We must be supportive, reasonable, and understanding with employees during critical times of crisis. Corporate responsibility, good citizenship, and civility will reflect well on an agency during a crisis. How we respond, as leaders, will show how much we care about our employees, and the community (as a whole). My heart, prayers, and contributions go out to my neighbors in Florida and Texas, and those assisting with the relief efforts. Porsi, Novid, Society For Human Resource Management, Communicating with Employees During a Crisis, Oct 25, 2016, news/hr-magazine/1116/Pages/communicating- with-emplo..., retrieved 09/11/2017. Shillingstad, Hal A., Society For Human Resource Management, Hurricane Matthew and Crisis Management: An Employers Checklist, Oct 10, 2016, and tools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/hurricane- matthew-check...., retrieved 09/11/2017