Study recommends action steps

Thirty-five percent of human resources professionals lack a personal preparedness plan, which can impact an organization in face of a natural disaster or pandemic, finds a Saint Louis University public health researcher.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Biosafety and Health Education, suggests 20 items or actions that should be adopted by a person in order to prepare for a disaster, including having at least three days' worth of food, water, and prescription medication stockpiled; a designated safe location for him or herself and family to go in case of evacuation; and back-up child care plans in case daycare facilities or schools are closed.

In total, 471 HR professionals from 33 states participated in the survey, and about a third had half or fewer of these preparedness measures in place.

"Without a personal disaster plan, individuals and families are unlikely to be able to sustain themselves after a disaster when grocery stores and pharmacies are closed and community resources are insufficient to provide for the entire community," says Terri Rebmann, Ph.D., associate professor at Saint Louis University's Institute of Biosecurity and principal investigator of the study.

Rebmann says it is important for HR professionals to have a disaster plan as many routine business operations depend on them.

"HR professionals are particularly important because they often coordinate personnel payment. If they can't work during a disaster because they lack a personal disaster plan to sustain their families, the personnel at the HR professionals' workplace may not get paid on time," she says.

Rebmann also pointed out that when hit by a disaster, which results in a large number of injured or sick employees, HR professionals would be essential in coordinating the hiring of temporary staff who would help maintain business operations. Without the ability to quickly hire temporary staff, businesses may be forced to close, which would have a significant financial impact on the organization and the community.

"A majority of HR professionals said they believe a natural disaster is very likely to affect their community and business in the future, but they did not have an adequate personal preparedness plan in place," Rebmann says. "Many citizens believe that local response agencies will provide them with basic needs during a disaster, but we know from past experiences that it takes a few days or longer for response agencies to be able to help, and even when they do, there are simply not enough resources for everyone in the affected communities who need it."

Rebmann suggests that it would be beneficial to employers to encourage HR professionals to have a personal disaster plan as that increases the likelihood that staff members are able and willing to work during a disaster.

Click here for more information on protecting your business in a disaster.