Crisis preparedness key as Hurricane Irene approaches

Businesses, officials and other communicators dust off plans for reaching employees and the public as Hurricane Irene descends.

James Fisher, a senior manager in media relations with Booz Allen Hamilton, was working Thursday when an all-employees email popped up testing the system in advance of the approaching hurricane.

At the same time his phone rang. “The message that I just saw on my email was read to me as an automatic message on my cell phone,” he says. He was asked to confirm by typing a number.

Such messages, coordinated by a tool called Send Word Now, allows the McLean, Va.-based defense and intelligence contracting giant to speak to and hear back from its 25,000 employees—many of them in the direct path of Hurricane Irene.

Up and down the East Coast, corporations, PR firms and government agencies stepped up communications in advance of the hurricane.

Companies emailed links directing employees in potential landfalls to disaster-related websites. Airlines exchanged tweets with passengers about canceled flights, and cruise lines used Twitter to reassure customers after rerouting ships.

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