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Protecting the federal workforce during hurricane season

October 10, 2023

By: Steve Powell, executive vice president, property claims, Sedgwick, the parent company of Sedgwick Government Solutions

We are currently in the midst of the Atlantic hurricane season and protecting the federal workforce remains a top priority. Recently, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) authorized the use of an emergency leave transfer program (ELTP) for federal employees adversely impacted by Hurricane Idalia. Earlier this year, a typhoon devastated U.S. territories in the North Pacific, which many federal employees call home. In response to this tropical storm, OPM established an emergency leave transfer program for those displaced by the tropical storm.

While there’s no crystal ball that can predict exactly when a major storm will make landfall, nor foresee the extent of damage, government agencies can establish a game plan in advance of natural disasters such as these. In fact, there are several key actions federal agencies can take to help safeguard their employees from Mother Nature’s fury.

This blog will explore what federal agencies can do to prepare and ensure the well-being of their employees before catastrophe strikes.

Create a plan

Agencies should first conduct a risk assessment and vulnerability analysis to identify areas most susceptible to hurricane impacts. This will help prioritize resources and deploy assets where they are needed most. In hurricane-prone areas, it is critical to establish and implement a preparedness plan to help ensure a smooth recovery for the federal workforce – the sooner, the better.

Review policies

Agency leaders should also review their insurance policies and terms and conditions ahead of renewal season to make sure their employees’ needs will be covered in case a severe weather-related event occurs. Waiting to do so will only unearth prolonged challenges, including renegotiations and delays with contractors, during what is an already stressful situation.

For instance, federal agencies should check if temporary housing expenses are included in their plan. Employers should work with insurers that offer policies that include a network of hotels and short-term housing options to ensure quality temporary housing with the best lease terms.

Determine an approach to claims

In addition, government agency leaders must establish a comprehensive claims ecosystem that encompasses an array of disciplines to meet the varying needs of policyholders, including loss adjusting, forensic engineering, building consulting and temporary housing. In order to expedite restoration and resolution, their federal agency’s emergency preparedness plan should include an already-identified preferred repair solutions provider that will help get the process moving more quickly.

Anticipate employee needs

Government agencies should consider working with their loss adjuster ahead of a catastrophe to identify expectations and needs. This will ensure they know how to respond quickly and who to send as part of hurricane relief efforts. Working with their claims partner, agencies can establish a team of pre-screened adjusters, building consultants, engineers and marine surveyors ready to jump in when disaster strikes. The emergency team put in place should have extensive risk management experience and have the ability to pivot. Since hurricane damage can be unpredictable, the team must also be flexible and adaptable to aid federal employees’ needs.

Previous hurricane seasons and natural disasters have shown us how important it is to have a robust and efficient disaster response plan – as well as taught us lessons about where the current ways can be improved. Federal agencies need to continuously review and update protocols preemptively to make sure their employees will always have the support they need, if they ever do need it.

At Sedgwick Government Solutions, we are passionate about helping people and putting them first. It is important that all government agencies take a similar approach to their workforce. That means agencies must ensure they identify insurance providers that show empathy, accountability, collaboration, growth and inclusion. The selected provider should also be informative, available on the ground, and have the ability to problem solve and address unanticipated challenges. Working with the right team after a loss provides a sense of stability and plays a pivotal role in getting people out of subpar living and working conditions as quickly as possible.

Having a comprehensive emergency preparedness plan in place will provide relief to employees and demonstrate that their employer truly cares about their people. By taking initiative early, the federal government can minimize the impact of hurricanes on susceptible communities this season, and better support their workforce whenever disaster strikes.

Keep an eye on our Sedgwick Government Solutions blog series for topics impacting the public sector.