It’s a fact that severe weather events are on the rise. Whether it’s a tornado, a wildfire, a hurricane or a flood, every season delivers a new threat to the doorstep of your organization. In 2021 we dealt with 20 severe weather events, including a drought, a wildfire, a winter storm, two floods, four tropical cyclones and 11 severe storms, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Did You Know Weather Is a Dynamic Risk?
So what potential weather challenges does 2022 have in store? While meteorologists can make predictions, only time will tell. What we do know is these events threaten every organization’s ability to keep their people safe and secure. This is due to the fundamental nature of weather as a dynamic risk.
A dynamic risk is one in which the ultimate harm is different than the initially expected harm. In these scenarios, leaders most often find themselves saying, “I was expecting Risk A, but then we got hit by Risk B.” What does this look like? One organizational leader recently gave a noteworthy example.
On a Friday morning, management noticed a number of workers had not shown up, which resulted in a major staffing shortage. Shortly thereafter, they found out a tornado struck the night before, in a neighborhood where a majority of staff resided. Because the weather had stabilized and crews were already remediating damage and getting utilities back online, the organization assumed their staffing shortage would be quickly resolved. Unfortunately, in the days following, power outages and gas leaks necessitated another round of evacuations, displacing workers well into the following week.
Lesson learned? Don’t underestimate the impact of long-tailed secondary and tertiary threats to your organization. One weather event can trigger other issues you may not have anticipated.
The Ever-Expanding Duty of Care
With that in mind, we must examine duty of care relative to managing dynamic risk in the form of severe weather. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers have a responsibility to provide a safe workplace. It doesn’t stop there. Because the impact of severe weather is so unpredictable and modern life has grown so complex, meeting this duty requires a holistic approach. This is supported by ongoing directives from OSHA and recommendations for protecting workers from associated hazards following disasters.
Without safe, healthy and confident workers, operations grind to a halt. Our mobile world is steadily increasing the overlap between work and life, which raises the stakes on duty of care. Where previously its main focus was travel for work and international operations, it now incorporates the growing number of employees who work from home, as well as those who have returned to the office and those following the hybrid model.
Each of these areas requires careful consideration to meet the duty of care to today’s workers:
- Operations in brick-and-mortar facilities: Will they remain safe during severe weather?
- Commutes to and from the workplace: What if roads are impassible?
- Travel required for work: How will you monitor the status of air and train transit?
- Online security: Can you guarantee the safety of personal data while people work virtually?
- Physical, mental and emotional well-being: Are you able to check in regularly and during a crisis?
Critical Event Management Makes Resilience a Reality
Caring for your employees during severe weather events requires employers to:
- Monitor the risk landscape and keep your people apprised of changes that may affect their safety and operational continuity.
- Educate your people about existing and predicted threats and how to prepare for them.
- Communicate with everyone before, during and after a critical weather event (such as a tornado) and throughout an ongoing situation (such as a wildfire).
The right critical event management technology will help you manage these priorities, swiftly and seamlessly by leveraging key capabilities. Risk intelligence can help you more accurately pinpoint locations with increased vulnerability to severe weather. By considering comprehensive factors such as topography, population density, housing composition and existing infrastructure, risk intelligence can better analyze where, when and how organizations and communities should focus. With a critical communications system (or mass notification system), you can send alerts promptly, in your recipients’ preferred mode (such as text, voicemail, email, desktop alerting and in-app notification). Delivery notifications, read-receipts and send-failure reports let you know who has and hasn’t received your updates.
For ongoing process improvement, your critical event management platform should also include an audit trail of all communications related to a critical event. This helps maintain accountability during the event and enables a thorough after-actions review in its aftermath. In addition, it’s a valuable resource for legal compliance.
The bottom line is mutual – you and your workers depend on each other for economic stability. Trust and technology go hand in hand when you have the right system to keep everyone connected and strengthen organizational resilience.
Learn more about leveraging critical event management technology when severe weather strikes to better protect your people, places and property.