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Why Every Business Needs an Emergency Answering Service During Hurricane Season

A devastating storm struck Tallahassee on May 10, 2024, altering the shape of the business districts and neighborhoods that were hit hardest. This storm like so many others we see this time of year is a reminder of the unpredictable and severe nature of our increasingly unpredictable summer storm and hurricane seasons. With winds exceeding 100 mph and multiple tornadoes, the storm caused extensive damage, leaving over 160,000 residents without power and severely disrupting daily life (WUSF) (FOX Weather). This event not only highlighted the importance of robust municipal emergency planning but also underscored the critical need for businesses (especially small businesses) to have an emergency response answering service in place.


The storm struck on a Friday, wreaking havoc on entire business districts and neighborhoods. One of the hardest-hit areas was the Railroad Square arts neighborhood, a cultural and entrepreneurial hub in the city. This district is home to a variety of businesses, including a nonprofit theater, vintage furniture shops, art galleries, and restaurants. Roads throughout the city became impassable. Entire blocks of high-rise apartment buildings remained dark and without power for the better part of a week. By the following Wednesday, power had been restored to 90% of utility customers, but many neighborhoods remained without power for weeks.

The complexities of the situation meant that no single factor could be blamed. The city’s emergency response plan was large and multifaceted and included 24/7 functions that includes limited emergency answering service capabilities, provided by various sources, but many residents found it difficult to navigate the initial steps and advocate for themselves amidst the confusion. For example, tree companies would arrive to clear downed trees and limbs but needed the power lines to be reattached first. Conversely, line crews would come to repair and replace poles but couldn’t proceed until the debris was removed. This “chicken and egg” scenario led to numerous frustrating calls where municipal offices or utility representatives would refer callers to another entity without clear guidance on what needed to be done first. Perfect reason every business and public agency office needs a Emergency Response Answering Service; 24 hour answering service-eh?!

This lack of clarity left both residents and businesses in a state of confusion and frustration, with small businesses being particularly hard-hit by the service interruptions.

The Critical Role of Emergency Answering Services

During natural disasters like hurricanes, communication becomes a lifeline. An emergency answering service ensures that businesses can maintain open lines of communication with their customers, employees, and stakeholders, even when local infrastructure is compromised. Here’s why every business should consider implementing such a service:

  • Continuous Customer Support: When a disaster strikes, customers may need immediate assistance or reassurance. An emergency answering service can provide 24/7 support, handling inquiries and providing critical information, which helps maintain customer trust and satisfaction.
  • Employee Coordination: Businesses need to communicate effectively with their employees to ensure their safety and coordinate work responsibilities. An emergency answering service can relay messages, provide updates on business operations, and assist in emergency planning.
  • Business Continuity: Keeping the business operational during a disaster is challenging. An answering service can take over essential communication tasks, allowing business leaders to focus on strategic decisions and recovery efforts.
  • Disaster Preparedness and Response: These services often include disaster response planning and can quickly activate communication protocols when a storm is imminent, ensuring that all stakeholders receive timely and accurate information.

Lessons from Municipal Planning

The response to the Tallahassee storm highlighted several key strategies that businesses can adopt to enhance their resilience during hurricane season:

  • Centralized Communication: Just as municipalities benefit from a centralized emergency plan, businesses should establish a central communication hub to manage information dissemination and coordination. This ensures consistent and reliable communication with all parties involved.
  • Pre-Event Planning and Training: Regular drills and training sessions for employees on emergency procedures can significantly improve response times and efficiency. Businesses should conduct these exercises to ensure everyone knows their role during a disaster. 
  • Resource Allocation and Coordination: Identifying critical resources and establishing agreements with external service providers, such as emergency answering services, can streamline recovery efforts. Businesses should pre-position resources and have a clear plan for mobilizing them when needed.
  • Reliable Communication Systems: Investing in reliable communication systems that can operate during power outages or infrastructure failures is crucial. This includes satellite phones, mobile hotspots, and backup power supplies to ensure continuous operation. 
  • Public Information and Education: Educating employees and customers about emergency procedures and safety measures can mitigate panic and confusion. Regular updates and clear instructions can help maintain order and ensure everyone knows how to stay safe.

Coordination with Utility Companies

Businesses can take a cue from how municipalities coordinate with utility companies for efficient disaster response. Establishing partnerships and communication protocols with local utilities can ensure quicker restoration of services and better management of expectations during outages. Pre-arranged agreements with service providers can facilitate a faster and more organized response.

Now What?

The Tallahassee storm serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of preparedness and robust communication strategies during hurricane season. For businesses, an emergency response answering service is an invaluable tool that ensures continuous customer support, effective employee coordination, and overall business continuity. By learning from municipal planning and incorporating similar strategies, businesses can enhance their resilience and readiness for future hurricanes, safeguarding both their operations and their people.

If you would like help designing and implementing an emergency response answering service strategy in your own business, nonprofit, or government office, please visit us online and complete the consultation request form here.