Weather Emergencies in the Workplace


January 4, 2011

Stillness, and the house is quiet.  Faintly in the distance, the sirens begin to wail.  The volume increases as the wind is picking up.  My heart rate picks up a little bit too as I glance out the window and see the trees beginning to sway.  Without scaring the children, I quickly call them to me.  I tell them to put on their shoes and winter coats and grab their favorite “baby”.  I gather the house phone, my cell, and a flashlight and we all head to the basement.  We sit through the hail, the thunder, and driving rain.  Then, as quickly as it began, it’s over.

A few minutes later is when I first hear about the tornado that touched down on the other side of the city, approximately 30 miles from my house.  Not far from my childhood home.   The tornado hit areas with the precision of a scalpel. One house would be blown away while the house next to it was virtually untouched.  The city of St. Louis was hit by eleven tornadoes New Year’s eve, one of which was the F3 twister I’ve just described.  It makes the danger of the storm real and justifies my emergency preparedness plan for my family.

Do we do the same at work?  I know organizations have fire drills, tornado drills, and other emergency preparedness drills.  Often I see employees going through the motions in a daze, not taking it seriously or sometimes, refusing to participate.  The danger is very real though and sometimes you have to pull out all the emergency preparedness stops.

  • Practice fire drills and other workplace safety drills
  • Keep a few bottles of water in your office or work area
  • Bring a small flashlight and extra batteries to your workspace
  • Invest in a small first aid kit for your work area
  • Be familiar with the fastest way to evacuate

These are just a few tips to get you started.  It really can save your life.


  • Trish, this reminded me of when I was at the hospital. Whenever JCAHO came a knockin’, we always had to know where the “safety corner” was.

  • As someone who lives in Illinois’ tornado alley (one of the worst ever in IL ended a block away from my home at the time), disaster planning is always part of my thoughts. You must plan for any eventuality (in fact, there is an OSHA reg about it) and make sure your employees at least have been told/trained on what to do if a disaster hits. Just like fire drills in school, you can’t make employees take it seriously…until it happens to them. Then it all hits home (so to speak). Just hope you never have to use it.

    • @John J- Couldn’t have said it better my friend. Thanks for adding to the conversation.

  • There’s a big difference between compliance and preparedness. All too often we go through the motions because regulations require it, without fully valuing the potential for serious threat. It’s good to know you were prepared and didn’t wait until you saw real damage before you responded. Great example for your kids.

    • @Tim- Your first sentence captures the very essence of the post. I think we all focus on the compliance piece and not the preparedness. Any ideas on how HR pros and managers can facilitate a shift in thinking?

  • Trish-
    As a matter of fact, I do have some ideas on this topic, which I will work into a series of posts for the next week or so. Thanks for the idea!

  • Trish – this is a great point. It has many applications far beyond just natural disasters, and can be applied metaphorically to the workplace in a variety of ways.

    I’m a new reader, but liking what I see so far

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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.


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