With extreme weather-influenced events, such as recent flooding in Houston and Louisiana and massive wildfires in the American west, or natural events such as the earthquake in Italy, facing disaster is becoming a frequent challenge for people – and for the companies for which they work. Questions arise as to how best to address such disasters and their impacts.
The response to a disaster, whether natural or otherwise, comes in three primary phases: Rescue, with an immediate focus on saving lives; relief, when short-term provisions for food and shelter dominate and the focus is on providing safe and sanitary conditions for survivors; and recovery, a longer-term phase toward rebuilding and returning to self-sufficiency.
Affected individuals turn to local and federal governments for immediate and longer-term assistance. In addition, victims call on civic agencies such as the American Red Cross, and faith-based relief organizations, for support and assistance. Such agencies almost unanimously request monetary contributions rather than food, clothing and other goods, because as agencies with relief programs in place, they are organized to provide critical basics and to coordinate local partners and community members for relief and recovery work.
Companies with employees in the disaster zone may feel the effect of the disaster in absenteeism of affected personnel; reduced performance due to employee stress; potentially higher turnover and reduced morale across the organization. How can a business address such disaster-related issues?
Employee-funded emergency assistance and disaster relief funds are an answer. A correctly designated fund can quickly provide direct assistance to impacted employees. Such assistance can help employees return to work more quickly, reduce the stress on the affected employees – as well as the rest of the workforce – and potentially prevent stress-related turnover. The employees who benefit from fund grants will feel supported by their work community. The employees who contribute to the funds will feel engaged with providing relief and assisting with recovery from the disaster.