'Tis the Season for Inclement Weather: Does Your Company Have an Effective Notification System?
Winter brings with it the potential for inclement weather, and it's no surprise that this can wreak havoc on your company's day-to-day operations. When your business was just starting out, it was relatively easy to contact a handful of employees regarding impending storms. However, now that you've grown to middle market status with staff members in multiple locations, keeping everyone in the loop is a lot more challenging. This is why midmarket companies need effective weather notification systems.
What's a Weather Notification System?
An inclement weather notification system is simply a way to notify affected individuals — staff, customers, suppliers, etc. — of how your business is responding to a major weather system. This may mean not opening for business, closing early or moving central operations to a different location when a blizzard, hurricane, flood, tornado or windstorm is approaching.
Choosing an Effective Notification System
You should select and detail a notification system as part of your overall business continuity plan. You can notify staff using SMS messages, companywide emails or automated or personal phone calls. In the event that Internet service is disrupted, you can inform the public through local radio messages or even local news updates.
Alternatively, some companies may choose to use email and SMS weather alert services, such as the one provided by the National Weather Service, as a trigger to indicate when a weather crisis is underway.
Include two or more methods of communication in your notification system so you have a fall-back plan if one method is disrupted. Keep in mind that you'll need to maintain up-to-date contact information, including phone numbers and email addresses, for all employees.
Take to Social Media
In today's hyperconnected world, one of the fastest ways to get a message out is by posting on social media, such as Twitter or Facebook. This is also beneficial because it allows your followers to respond with any questions, so consider using social sites as a supplementary notification method.
Establish Crisis Communication Policies
An effective and efficient notification system is just one aspect of dealing with a weather-related crisis. The larger your company becomes, the more important it is to have crisis communication policies in place. There will be more people to notify and update in the event of a critical situation.
Your company's crisis policies should include a detailed inclement weather policy — you may want to follow a template, such as the one provided by the Society for Human Resource Management. Your policy should detail the steps the company will take when dealing with disaster, including communication alternatives and business and security procedures.
Some of the questions to answer in your communication policy may include:
- Who has the authority to make decisions regarding weather-related threats? Identify several individuals authorized to make business decisions when it comes to severe weather or other crises.
- Is there a communication team in charge of pushing alerts out to staff?
- How will you communicate with team members? What is the procedure if the main form of communication is compromised?
- How will you notify customers that you're closing early or if, for instance, shipments are delayed because of poor road conditions? This policy should be tailored to your business's services or products.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, middle market companies need to have a clear and actionable policy that is readily accessible for authorized personnel to refer to in response to acts of terrorism, natural disasters, fires or severe inclement weather.
The Importance of a Detailed Inclement Weather Policy
Nature is a fact of life, and at some point, it will affect your business. The key to handling stormy weather and mitigating its effects on your company is having a clear process in place for making decisions and communicating updates to all necessary parties.
How does your business communicate with employees and customers when it comes to weather issues? Do you use new technology to get your message out, or do you stick with traditional methods such as phone and radio? Share your stories in the comments below.
Sarita Harbour is an NCMM contributor and freelance business-to-business writer, blogger and ghostwriter. Her bylined work appears online at sites such as Forbes, Fox News, Business News Daily and CBC. Follow her on Twitter or visit her website.