Employees at Maine Medical Center don’t have the luxury of staying home from work during blizzards. There are still patients to treat and visiting families to accommodate even during the worst weather, and medical emergencies never cease.

Fortunately, the Portland hospital has a well-organized plan for dealing with severe-weather events that involves staffing up before storms, placing workers in hotels or empty hospital rooms, renting four-wheel-drive vehicles to shuttle employees safely from place to place, and stocking up on extra food.

“It’s a ton of work, but worth every minute that it takes to figure it out,” said Josh Frances, the hospital’s director of emergency management.

While severe-weather preparedness may not be a life-or-death matter at most Maine businesses and organizations, management experts said it is important for all of them to have specific policies so employees know what to expect in the event of a major snowstorm such as the one that hit New England early Tuesday. The key is to ensure that all workers understand their rights and responsibilities far in advance of a storm, they said.

Rick Dacri, owner of Kennebunk-based management consulting firm Dacri & Associates, said employee safety always must be the first consideration for employers when they are developing a severe-weather policy.

“You don’t want your employees to get into an accident simply because they’re forcing themselves to get to work,” he said.

Dacri said employers should develop a system for informing workers ahead of time whether the business will be open and who is expected to work, either on site or from home.

Staff members also should be aware of whether they will be paid in the event of a weather-related business closure, he said. Salaried employees by law must be paid on such days, Dacri said, but it is up to an employer’s discretion whether to pay hourly workers for a full day, a few hours, or not at all.

Another policy issue for employers to consider is whether the company will allow hourly workers to take paid time off on severe-weather days, he said.

“Some do, some don’t,” Dacri said.

Another business that never closes, not even during the most horrendous storms, is L.L. Bean in Freeport.

Company public affairs manager Carolyn Beem said the outdoor apparel and accessories retailer relies on a volunteer system to keep the 24/7/365 operation staffed during heavy snowstorms. Employees who cannot safely get to work are not expected to show up, she said.

Just like Maine Medical Center, L.L. Bean provides free meals during heavy storms and makes overnight accommodations for employees who need them. The only major difference is that the retailer is able to operate on a reduced staff during storms, because far fewer customers come in to shop.

“There’s precious few customers,” Beem said. “But you’d be surprised who comes in on days like this. Bragging rights, I guess.”

Some of the company’s operations do shut down during heavy snowstorms, she said, such as its manufacturing and distribution centers. Like its retail stores, the L.L. Bean call center operates on a limited, volunteer-only staff, Beem said.

“We always look for the safety first of employees,” she said. “We leave it up to the employee to decide.”

Businesses like L.L. Bean and Maine Medical Center are the exception, not the rule, said David Ciullo, president of Portland-based Career Management Associates and host of the “HR Power Hour” radio show on 1310 AM News Talk WLOB.

With the help of modern communications technology, most employers can simply allow their staff to work from home on snow days, Ciullo said.

“Most people today are probably working,” he said Tuesday, working from his home. “The laptop and cellphone have made it possible.”

Ciullo said that for the vast majority of employers, there is no reason to require workers to show up at the office during a storm. For those businesses that do require on-site personnel, safety concerns and lack of customer demand are likely to keep staffing needs at a minimum, he said.

Ciullo said that because winter storms are expected in Maine, employers generally have an established means of keeping workers abreast of what the company expects of them during severe weather events, whether it’s by phone, text, email, intranet or Internet.

“You live in Maine, you pretty much should have a process in place,” he said.