Emergency Planning for Severe Weather: How to Prepare for the Inevitable

Originally published on syn-apps.com

If the extreme weather conditions of recent years―historic droughts, devastating hurricanes and catastrophic wildfires, among others―have taught us anything, it’s that severe weather can strike at any moment, and every second counts. That’s why all organizations should have a strategic, well-tested emergency communication plan in place.

This article provides tips on how you can improve your emergency weather strategy by leveraging technology to optimize your communications processes to protect your people and assets.

Know the Terminology

To begin, make sure your team understands the different types of alerts issued by weather-related government agencies in your country. Typically, they include:

  • A watch: Sent when weather conditions are favorable for a specific type of event, such as a tornado or flooding. For example, a tornado watch would mean that a severe thunderstorm and tornadoes are possible. It does not mean a tornado will occur.
  • An advisory: Generally means a weather event is imminent, but not severe. For example, a winter weather advisory would be issued for several inches of snow in most areas. This is a notable occurrence, but not likely to cause long-term issues for most businesses and organizations.
  • A warning: Issued when a severe weather event is imminent. For example, a blizzard warning means a severe snowstorm is expected within the next 12 to 18 hours.

We recommend familiarizing your teams with the terminology, as well as relevant sirens or tones so they’re not alarmed should the forecast take a turn.

Determine Who Should Receive Severe Weather Notifications

If you haven’t already, determine who has decision-making authority within your organization, who needs to be informed of each weather condition and how they should proceed.

For example, you may decide that watches should go to executive team members and the facilities crew so they’re prepared to make contingency plans. You may choose to send advisories to all supervisors on premises because the weather event may require people to leave earlier than usual. You may choose to send warnings to all personnel because they may require people to seek shelter. Some situations, such as hurricanes and severe winter weather, often require management to determine if and when to close the facility or make arrangements for people to stay home.

Leverage Technology to Optimize Your Communications Plan

Next, determine how your organization will monitor and distribute information to the appropriate stakeholders. Most distributed recipient mass notification systems can send secondary notifications like e-mails or texts, but only advanced emergency mass notification systems are equipped to provide immediate and intrusive audio/visual alerts.

Advanced systems typically allow users to customize alerts so stakeholders receive a cohesive message from your organization. This helps establish trust and credibility with your recipients because they know the information they’re receiving is truly coming from your organization.

Providing ample notice can save lives, and automating weather alerts can provide the timely, effective information people need, without requiring one-off communications. Look for an emergency notification system that complies with all relevant regulations and integrates with trusted sources. As weather events develop, of course, you may want to add more personal and specific information based on your communications plan.

Test Your Systems & Conduct Drills

Conducting routine drills familiarizes personnel with existing procedures and acquaints them with new ones to ensure everyone understands what to do in a real weather emergency. They’re also helpful to identify process and system inefficiencies, arming leadership with valuable insight to fix issues right away.

Leverage a robust mass notification system with a scheduling solution like Mitel Revolution to plan drills in advance, so you can spend more time practicing and perfecting your emergency processes.

This article was first published by Mitel.

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