Tropical Storm Hermine has come and gone. Although the Savannah area was fortunate not to experience any serious injuries or fatalities due to the storm, we did have our share of challenges, from debris to loss of power to closings.
As the storm approached, area businesses, schools, and organizations had to determine whether or not to close, when and how to announce the decision, and more.
If you do not have a disaster preparedness and disaster communications plan in place, these decisions may become difficult. How do you decide when to close your business? What if the storm passes, as many have? How do you give employees enough notice? It can be very costly to close a business in advance of a storm making landfall, but safety must come first.
Here are a few tips to help.
First, communication is key. Get any updates regarding your business out as soon as possible. In the age of social media and smartphones, people can’t wait 24 hours or more for information. Use your organization’s social media accounts to state if and when you will be closing and who to contact for more information or in case of emergency. This helps you notify customers, vendors and others. Continue to update your social media as frequently as possible with brief and reliable information.
It is important to note that you must have a social media policy in place regarding employee comments on company postings.
Elements of a social media policy include having employees know that personal social media should not reference what is happening at their job. Even though posts can be deleted, the Internet can still reveal it. For example, if an employee posts something inappropriate on their personal social media account, you may have to take necessary action.
Secondly, notify the media regarding your business closing. The media does a great job updating area closings at no charge. It is up to you to send the notification and it only takes a few minutes. Simply create a news release including key points such as your name and contact information, date of release, name and location of business or organization closing, days and times of closing, and any other pertinent information.
Most local media outlets make it easy to send your news release to them, usually through the “Contact Us” or news sections on their website.
Looking for additional information on disaster preparedness?
The Chatham Emergency Management Agency’s website, chathamemergency.org, is a reliable resource. Consider signing up for CEMA’s disaster alerts so that you have the most timely and accurate information.
And finally, don’t wait for a storm warning to review your disaster response plan. Whether you have five employees or 500, it is always a good idea to have a plan in place.
Karen Robertson is the Director of Public Relations and Client Development at Robertson & Markowitz Advertising & Public Relations Inc., a full-service advertising, marketing and public relations firm, with Robmark Web providing website design, development and SEO. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 912-921-1040.