In the Know: Disaster planning in light of the coronavirus pandemic

May 7, 2020 By    

In the Know is a monthly partnership between LP Gas and Propane Resources. Our focus this month is on disaster management, addressed by marketing specialist Tony Botts.

Q: How should retailers revise disaster plans in light of the coronavirus pandemic?

A: We’re only through four months of the year, and the propane industry has faced more obstacles and challenges than preferred.

It’s been a wake-up call to many with regard to crisis communication and disaster management.

Going forward, retailers should approach all disaster event planning and management in the same way the COVID-19 outbreak unfolded: Disaster can strike at any moment.

The key to crisis communication and disaster management is preparation. Make sure these plans are developed before tragedy strikes. If you wait until you’re staring crisis in the face, you’re too late. Additionally, have a plan in place for specific scenarios: epidemic or pandemic, natural disaster, propane accidents, data breach, etc.

Here are a few ways retailers can improve or solidify their disaster event plans for the future:

1. Make sure communication strategies are in place. Identify who will be the spokesperson and how they will deliver their messages, whether that’s direct emails to customers or media, social media or press conferences. Make sure your employees are aware of these policies. When disaster strikes, there’s little time to review the plan, and your employees should be ready to jump into action quickly.

2. If your disaster management plan calls for additional safety equipment, make sure you have that equipment on hand. If the current virus outbreak shows us one thing, it’s how scarce certain products or equipment can become. Have some personal protective equipment stocked up for these moments in the event one of your disaster plans is activated.

3. Your disaster management plans also need to identify whether your policy is subject to change based on local, state or federal policy. For example, with the coronavirus, many states are looking to reopen their local economies. This means customers will be expecting to visit your office or begin requesting in-home service work. Does your disaster plan then change to allow these practices, or do you continue with policies that limit person-to-person contact for the safety of employees and customers? It’s not necessarily a subject of right or wrong, but what’s best for your employees, customers and business.

4. Finally, reach out to your key information sources: legal, financial, insurance, state associations or safety commissions. Make sure there’s a clear understanding of what you need to do to either report a disaster or what plans can be put in place on their end to assist you in a disaster.

Disasters can strike quickly, and you need a plan in place to guide you and your company through difficult times. Review these plans with employees, and add or update these plans as needed.

Tony Botts is a marketing specialist at Propane Resources. He can be reached at 913-262-8345.

About the Author:

Sarah Peecher was a digital media content producer at LP Gas.

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