From hurricanes to blizzards (and everything in between) bad weather is a part of nature. So are the challenges of managing the bad weather logistics of protecting your members when harsh weather comes calling. A well-organized plan can minimize confusion and maximize safety, but failure to properly address severe weather conditions can still put your congregation at risk. We recommend following these best practices for communicating with your congregation about closures and other important information during weather-related emergencies.
- Have a plan — and share the plan
A recent Travelers Insurance survey reveals that nearly 44 percent of all small organizations in the U.S. do not have a plan outlining what actions should be taken during a weather emergency. Does your church have an inclement weather policy? If so, when was the last time it was updated? Are your members aware of the plan? Is it on your website? Each of these questions must be answered in order to achieve both clarity and transparency.
In addition to communicating to members that a plan exists and how to find it, it’s also important to inform people about changes to the plan as they occur. Constant communication is a critical component of effective communications.
- Address the specifics
It’s not enough to have a general plan in place; you must also establish and communicate detailed procedures. When leadership decides to close or delay services or events due to bad weather, does your congregation know how you will communicate this information to them? More importantly, can you trust that they will receive this information as quickly and directly as possible?
It all comes down to specifics. Your plan should include: Who will send the message? Which channels will be used to the time of delivery? The more detailed you are in defining and communicating policies, the more likely they are to hold up in emergency situations.
For example, telling members that they will be informed of a cancellation decision via email is only a small part of the equation. However, telling them when the decision will be made and communicated eliminates member frustration by sparing them needless waiting, uncertainty, and risk.
- Embrace Technology
Twenty years ago “phone trees” were the only option for communicating with large numbers of contacts — remember them? From miscommunications to the complete breakdown of communications due to a single failure in the chain, phone trees have historically led to more confusion, not less.
The latest mass messaging services offer innovative solutions by allowing both leaders and members to have more control regarding how they receive pivotal communications. For example, leading notification provider One Call Now offers a multichannel approach, which allows churches to send time-sensitive messages via the recipient’s choice of voice, text or email with just a single click or call. Then leaders and administrators can see which members have received messages and which have not — resulting in new levels of assurance that important messages are being received. Real-time reporting further improves the weather cancellation process by offering instant access to crucial live information, including everything from the time of contact for each member to erroneous phone numbers.