Nonprofits and foundations play a pivotal role in helping communities respond to and recover from natural disasters and other tragedies. But in order for local service providers and philanthropies to be there for others in times of great need, they must first successfully weather the storm themselves. In addition to having a plan in place for how to expedite funding and services for those hardest hit by a disaster, organizations need to look to their own preparedness.
For many of us, planning for disaster typically elicits our best Scarlett O’Hara imitations: “I’ll think about that tomorrow.” But increasingly, current events and creative thinkers (along with zombie aficionados and self-styled “doomsday preppers”) have breathed new life into disaster preparedness, pulling it into our popular consciousness and adding a diverse array of tips, templates, and tools.
Whatever excuses we use for not having a plan in place, lack of resources shouldn’t be one of them. Here are just a few ideas to get you started on the road to being disaster-ready:
- Collaborating Agencies Responding to Disasters (CARD) was formed in the wake of the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake to help San Francisco Bay Area nonprofits and public agencies build their capacity to continue serving in times of crisis and afterwards. Resources are designed for organizations whose primary mission is not disaster response or recovery, and include trainings and presentations as well as accessible tools like a web-based Agency Emergency Plan Template.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made news in 2011 when it fell into step with the horde and warned Americans to prepare for the zombie apocalypse. With a graphic novella, educator packets, and blog, the campaign promoted the preparedness message: “Get a kit, make a plan, and be prepared.” Though the buzz has since abated, the zombie meme lives, and continues to prompt diverse audiences to make the best of preparing for the worst.
- Technology offers remote access and redundancies that can be an asset in times of disaster, but it also poses vulnerabilities. TechSoup helps nonprofits prepare with The Resilient Organization: A Guide for Disaster Planning and Recovery. In addition to addressing a full range of technology-related issues, the guide includes a full chapter on non-technical disaster planning and recovery.
- In 2009, the American Red Cross launched its Ready Rating program to help schools, businesses, and organizations improve their ability to withstand disaster, maintain operations, and protect lives and property. It’s free to join, uses an online assessment to gauge your needs and track readiness improvement, and enables members to create customized plans.
Preparing for a disaster isn’t a “one and done” proposition, nor does it require a 50-page plan with “27 eight-by-ten color glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one.” It’s a continuous process of building awareness, asking and answering key questions, and having skills and assets ready to mobilize when the need should arise. We owe it not just to our constituents and communities, but to ourselves.
Take care out there!