Hurricane Harvey: Helping Storm Victims from the Workplace

By Beth Mirza Aug 27, 2017
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​As the workweek begins today, many conversations are going to turn to the devastation that Hurricane Harvey caused this weekend in Houston, southeast Texas and coastal Louisiana. Unending rain has turned streets into rivers and made thousands of homes and businesses uninhabitable.

The National Weather Service has called the flooding "unprecedented"—worse even than Hurricane Sandy, which battered New York and New Jersey in 2012, Ike, which hammered the Texas Gulf Coast in 2008, and Hurricane Katrina, which washed away parts of New Orleans and coastal Louisiana in 2005. These were the three costliest storms in recent history, in terms of property damage. Hundreds of lives were lost in the storms.

[SHRM members-only platform: Disaster Prep & Recovery on SHRM Connect]

Employees all over the country will be wondering how they can help the storm victims. Here are some ideas SHRM Online has compiled from reporting on previous storms and suggestions offered by organizations in Houston:

  • Big companies have already pledged millions. Among them, Google has promised to match employee donations. Matching employee donations helps workers take part in their company's corporation social responsibility pledges.
  • Nearly five years ago, as the East Coast cleaned up from Hurricane Sandy's damage, companies turned to Fundly.com to help employees pool their money and to match donations.
  • Employee relief funds—where workers and their company can donate money to hurricane victims in their workplaces—are another a popular way for co-workers to help one another, said Doug Stockham in 2012, then managing consultant for the Emergency Assistance Foundation Inc. in the West Palm Beach, Fla.
  • The American Red Cross has made it easy for individuals to donate small amounts that add up to big relief. Text REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10. Charges will appear on your wireless bill, or be deducted from your prepaid balance. Companies can become corporate partners with the Red Cross, as well.
  • Food banks may bear the brunt of relief efforts. We learned during Hurricane Katrina that it may be better to donate money instead of supplies, as delivery trucks may not be able to reach storm-damaged areas. Feeding Texas is a network of the state's food banks.
  • Diapers are not an item that disaster relief organizations often supply. You can pay for diapers for babies, seniors and others who need them via Texas Diaper Bank.
  • Does your company have a special interest in animals? Consider donations to Austin Pets Alive!, which has already taken in more than 200 animals left homeless by the storm.

Storm Victims at Work

If you have employees who have lost homes, vehicles or other property in the storm, they may need time off to focus on family and personal situations. Schools may be closed and no childcare available. Consider offering alternate work arrangements, allowing unscheduled leave and leave without pay, and creating a leave donation program.

Invite your EAP provider to the workplace to talk with employees individually about their concerns.

For more information on dealing with the aftermath of the storm—including employee communications, pay questions and leave eligibility issues—turn to SHRM Online's Workplace Weather Disaster Resources page.

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