The news this morning for Connecticut is grim. Hurricane Irene is heading straight for us.  It is shaping up to be the worst storm the state has faced since Hurricane Gloria back in 1985.

Straight into Connecticut

I’m old enough to remember Gloria. And it wasn’t pretty. Even areas around Hartford (where I was at the time) were without power for 5-7 days.

For employers, there are a lot of questions that come with a hurricane. Will I have to pay my employees if we have to shut down? Can I require employees to use vacation time? Can I require essential employees to work?

As we get closer, those questions are worth considering.

But today we have the luxury of time.  Which means today is a preparation day.

In my post earlier this week, I gave some initial tips for employers, which I won’t repeat here, but take a look at them.

Eric Meyer, an attorney in Philadelphia, had a great post earlier this week with 8 steps employers can take before and during a natural disaster and they seem to fit well here.  The 8 steps before the storm?

  • Develop an Emergency Response Plan.
  • Review and Update Policies and Procedures.
  • Educate and Prepare Your Employees.
  • Determine Essential and Non-Essential Business Functions.
  • Assess Communications and Electronic Infrastructure.
  • Update Contact Information for All Employees.
  • Check with Governmental Agencies.
  • Be Reasonable.

The government’s site has additional resources for businesses in situations like this as well.  Some of the suggestions are too late to implement, but you still have time to do a few including these:

  1. Consider setting up a telephone calling tree, a password-protected page on the company website, an email alert or a call-in voice recording to communicate with employees in an emergency.
  2. Designate an out-of-town phone number where employees can leave an “I’m Okay” message in a catastrophic disaster.
  3. Ensure you have established staff members who are responsible for communicating regularly to employees.
  4. Keep copies of important records such as site maps, building plans, insurance policies, employee contact and identification information, bank account records, supplier and shipping contact lists, computer backups, emergency or law enforcement contact information and other priority documents in a waterproof, fireproof portable container. Store a second set of records at an off-site location.

Connecticut has set up their own hurricane preparedness site. It may be useful to pass along to your employees the tips provided by the government.  No doubt there will be people buying water and batteries and other essential items today.

Finally, stay up to date with accurate information. The National Hurricane Center isn’t flashy but is a good place to start.  I also like the visuals on StormPulse too.

(Since this week has been a music-themed week, take a listen to another Florence + The Machine song — Hurricane Drunk.  Seems to fit our collective moods this morning.)