How Agencies Cope with Inclement Weather Article

How Agencies Cope with Inclement Weather

As the warm weather clears up and gives way to the cold, providers start to plan for inclement weather. Will the snow and ice cause road closures, power outages, or slippery conditions this winter? How can we prepare ahead of time?

Weather is a bigger concern for some areas than others. For example, last winter sent four nor’easters whirling through New England, causing mass power outages, cancelling flights, and creating dangerous or impossible driving conditions. Providers in the affected areas had to scramble to alert their staff of closures, delays, schedule changes, and special accommodations.

For those in warmer areas, conditions like hurricanes, tornadoes, or high wind can also disrupt regular services. Regardless of the climate, all providers should have a system in place to send immediate communications to the staff.

Bad “Solutions” to Inclement Weather Alerts

Many providers have already adopted systems to deal with inclement weather (and similar emergencies). However, these solutions require a lot of time and resources, and they are usually ineffective.

system in place to send immediate communications to the staff. Bad “Solutions” to Inclement Weather Alerts

Providers will often reach out to staff by phone in the event of emergency weather conditions. Some providers keep a big list of staff cell phone numbers; when the weather strikes, managers pull out the list and start a phone campaign to reach everyone. Other providers set up an old-fashioned phone tree, where managers call a small pool of employees, who are then responsible for calling several more, who are then responsible for calling several more, until the entire agency has been contacted.

Both of these phone methods have several problems. First, they are inordinately time-consuming. If an agency has 100 employees, and each phone call takes about 2 minutes, it will take four managers almost an hour to contact everyone. That can increase to multiple hours if the agency is larger, if fewer managers are available to sit at their phones, or if employees lengthen the phone calls by asking questions. Providers rarely have that much time to spare in emergency conditions.

Another problem with these phone methods is that they are hard to maintain. In a high turnover industry, managers have to remember to update the phone lists constantly. One error could make the whole system fall apart. Also, in the case of the phone tree, managers cannot confirm that all employees receive a call. One person in the tree may get distracted and forget to call the others, creating a big hole.

The last thing providers need is extra stress during a weather emergency. Instead of phone campaigns, they need a faster, more reliable way to contact employees.

A Better Way to Communicate

automated alert systemAn automated alert system, such as Agency Workforce Management’s eNotify, eliminates the problems of a phone campaign. Instead of a mass network of phone calls, a manager can send just one alert to everyone within seconds. Alternatively, the manager can send alerts to specific groups of people; for example, if a notification only affects group home staff, the rest of the agency will not receive it. The benefit of eNotify is that it saves time – allowing employees to take action more quickly – and it eliminates the burden of maintaining contact lists.

Since eNotify is so easy and convenient, agency staff can receive quick “heads-up” alerts, even in non-emergency situations. For instance, if the weather report threatens snow but the forecast is uncertain, managers can send weather updates and coordinate next steps ahead of the storm. A phone call system is too cumbersome to handle this much communication.

With eNotify, providers can also ensure that employees receive up-to-date information straight to their smart phones. They do not have to worry that an employee will miss a call and forget to check voicemail, or that someone will forget to call someone else.

Take Communication to the Next Level

eNotify’s limitation is that it only supports one-way communication. While that is fine for many providers, some prefer real conversations. Maybe a few employees are better prepared to brave the elements than others, and they can offer to cover extra shifts. Or perhaps managers want staff to send updates about certain areas. Whatever the case for two-way communication, Agency Workforce Management has a solution.

myCommunications is a multi-way communication platform that is secure and accessible remotely. By facilitating the exchange of information among all employees in a secure, HIPAA-compliant way, myCommunications keeps staff connected on administrative, personal, or individual care-related issues.

No one can control the weather, but providers can control their emergency weather procedures. When the weather is bad, staff need to receive updates and instructions right away; managers can provide information immediately and can send as many updates as necessary with an automated alert system. This ensures that services continue despite the elements.