Updated: May 11, 2022
How Can Businesses Survive a Disaster if Employees Can’t Stick Around?
Here's a business readiness scenario to ponder: Imagine that catastrophic weather is forecast within a week’s time in your town. Before the major storm or flood descends, the head of a locally-based company gathers all their employees together. “Our town (or city) is going to be struggling for weeks or months while everything is being rebuilt. But we have a 30-day supply of food for everyone here. So please come to work. You will be paid, and you’ll get fed too.” That's business readiness.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the United States has seen 323 weather and climate disasters since 1980. The total cost of these events have reached more than $2.195 trillion. These events have included wildfires, hurricanes, cyclones, floods, and droughts.
Between 1980 and 2000, the yearly average number of climate-related disasters was seven. In 2020, there were 22 such events in the USA, the most ever in a single year.
Weather patterns are not likely to “normalize.” Recent climate maps forecast continual sea level rises and increases in temperature. Normal life will be disrupted in much of the United States, particularly southern regions. Business readiness is becoming more and more important for communities to survive and thrive. The Washington Post reports that over 10 percent of all Americans now live in “rapidly heating” zones. This includes huge metropolises such as Los Angeles and New York City.
When disaster strikes, business often stops in its tracks as employees are thrown to their own devices. The average worker may have limited personal resources. Roughly 4 in 10 Americans don’t have enough cash on hand to cover even a $400 emergency. And if people do have some cash, food supplies may become severely limited due to catastrophic weather conditions. And grocery store shelves may empty quickly.
In that situation, employees’ first priorities will not be reporting on time for work. They will search for safety and food for themselves and their families. They will go where those necessities can be found.
Businesses will recover from a disaster better when they give employees an incentive that shows care that the business cares for them. Teams may be more motivated to stay with the company and return to work when it's safe if they know that the company will provide emergency food for them (and their families). High reliability organizations especially should create business readiness plans with a 10- to 90-day food supply. They could stock and store in a special place that's cordoned off in a special room. They could say to their workers, “We have food and water for you. It’s going to take time for things to return to normal around here, but you are taken care of.”
As catastrophic weather incidents increase, organizations that care for their employees through business readiness plans will preserve their employee loyalty. They will be best positioned to keep operations flowing in the face of climate-related challenges. Workers will know that their employer will offer them a measure of security. And workers’ families in turn will experience renewed confidence in their breadwinner. Meanwhile, through their business readiness planning the entire community will benefit. They'll benefit from the uninterrupted provision of a business’s product or service at a time when it’s most needed.