Disaster preparation

For Managers

Plans, Policies and Steps to Prepare for Disaster and
Navigate Through the Aftermath

Managers Guide

This guide outlines key steps that managers should take to prepare their operations, staff and clients.

When a nonprofit agency is preparing its operations and staff for a disaster, it’s all hands-on deck. This step-by-step guide provides managers of nonprofits and other organizations critical path procedures to ensure your agency has the appropriate plans, policies and steps in place to avoid risk to its valuable assets and resources. Agencies can best support their communities in disaster preparedness, response and recovery when they are prepared themselves. During each phase, coordinate with local community stakeholders and government officials to ensure that they are aware of how your agency can support disaster preparedness and recovery. 


Determine Potential Risk – Assess Agency Risk Internally/Externally

Managers should begin emergency preparation by determining what types of disasters may impact your agency. Work with local emergency management to obtain a list of potential emergencies you should be prepared to handle. Tour agency properties to determine areas of vulnerability internally and externally that must be addressed in order to safeguard the assets, the people and property, of the agency. Understand your agency’s finances, there should be a goal to have enough cash in reserve to continue program operations for three to six months. Talk with your bank and your board about what loans or lines of credit might be available should a disaster leave unmet expenses like payroll, rent and utilities during the crisis.


Develop an Emergency Preparedness Team

The primary concern in preparing for an emergency is to preserve lives, protect assets and maintain services to the community you serve. This requires input from all areas and cooperation from the entire agency. As managers assemble a preparedness team, they should first consider their agency’s circumstances and operations as no two entities are alike. Next, request volunteers, or if needed, appoint members representing departments and the board to ensure diverse viewpoints and perspectives are addressed. Examine each line of business the agency is involved in to make your plan as comprehensive as possible.


Create an Agency Emergency Response Plan

From limiting emergency-caused damage to returning to normal business operations post disaster, the emergency plan should address each phase of the disaster: mitigation, preparedness, recovery and response. Managers should include strategies for phase involvement such as mitigation programs or response/relief efforts. Incorporate hazards and threat-specific emergency procedures using guidance from local emergency management and resource links, addressing each phase of disaster is important. Determining what decisions will lie with the executive team and staff, and what decisions will lie with the board will give the team a vantage point for assigning roles. Some emergencies arise suddenly, managers should make certain, the plan is fully incorporated and regular operations are performed with a “stay ready mode” mindset. Set policies that properties, systems and files are maintained properly and monitored on schedule.   


Develop the Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP)

The Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) is the roadmap for the agency leadership to guide the organization through recovery and performing the critical activities of the organization, after a disruption of normal activities. The COOP will address how the organization will reopen and perform essential operations during an emergency or long-term disruption, which could last from two days to several weeks. The plan will identify mission-critical functions, communication methods, order of succession and alternate personnel, systems and locations. 

Develop your COOP by considering the mission of the agency, services offered and your standard of care. This will be your target level to achieve post disaster. An efficient system for prioritizing return of services based on priority levels is the use of colors to indicate the importance of a task or operation. List each system and line of business then determine if each are top priority, important, somewhat important or nonessential. Then, color code each aspect of your agency’s operations on your list. This will prioritize the order of the return of services and help keep your business operating as it responds and recovers from the effects of a disaster or emergency. The completed plan will incorporate training and scheduled practices to ensure that all staff are knowledgeable prior to an emergency.


Develop Internal and External Communication Plans

The Emergency Team is also responsible for creating and maintaining the media kits, and the internal and external communications plan. The internal plan allows staff and the board to understand how information will flow through the agency such as who speaks to the agency, while the external plan voices who speaks for the agency and when. In addition, this plan will address communication methods and the essential language of the alerts that will be used in an emergency. Sensitive data should be distributed only to the response team or in a password protected file which is shared only with a few key leaders. Keep in mind that in some emergencies the executive or board chair may be incapacitated, and their backup or other key leaders may need to have access to this information in order to respond.


Get Tech Ready – Update Information and Technology Policies

Technology has made it easier than ever to work from almost anywhere. We now have access to a great deal of our agency’s assets and processes at our fingertips. This has also made it easier than ever to compromise our safety. Set standards for information security and store information in a cloud. Explore the feasibility of facilitating programs remotely or employees working from home. Determine if employees have internet connections, computer equipment and software, and phones with safeguard features and capabilities to work from home. Also address the expectations for communication frequency, schedules and work performance variables.


Incorporate Emergency Preparedness in Education and Counseling

Managers should ensure that agencies prepare their clients by incorporating disaster preparedness throughout group education and one-on-one sessions. After considering community needs, your team should create programs to prepare the community through outreach and events focused on disaster preparations and recovery measures for typical disasters that may impact the area. By providing outreach education in service areas, agency managers help mitigate physical damage and assist in preserving lives.


Build Community Partnerships

Preparing for an emergency, responding to an emergency, executing agency recovery strategies and other activities require resources that come from within and outside your agency. Managers should be aware of emergency planning that is occurring in their service area. They should also identify external resources and foster partnerships with other stakeholders that serve a similar demographic. Memorandums of understanding outlining these partnerships should be identified within the plan documents. Include contact information to reach community stakeholders during an emergency and any additional instructions within the preparedness plan should be executed and incorporated into the emergency plans when appropriate.

Your agency is a community resource. Reach out to the organizations in your community that are engaged in disaster preparedness and recovery and let them know what services you offer and may be prepared to offer in the event of a disaster. Develop written and electronic materials about your disaster recovery capabilities and share them with interested parties. A written relocation arrangement with a community partner would certainly be helpful if your agency is damaged or needs to relocate.


Prepare Home Emergency Plans and Emergency Kit

Flight attendants’ instructions say, “secure your own mask before you attempt to help others.” This is also true concerning personal household emergency preparations. Managers should ensure their family is disaster resilient by preparing emergency plans and kits for their home. As physical preparations are made, make sure to financially prepare your household as well. Ensuring your family is secure will also leave you valuable mental space needed to plan for the agency.  


Test/Practice Emergency Preparedness Plans

The most well thought out plan is not reliable if staff is not familiar with its procedures. Managers are not only responsible for emergency plan development, but they are also responsible for ensuring that staff understand and are able to implement the plan. The purpose of emergency plans is to prepare each person and provide them with techniques to protect themselves, others and the property of the agency, in that order. Regular maintenance of plans and kits, review of emergency procedures during onboarding and scheduling of periodic trainings are all important techniques managers can utilize to ensure staff and clients are prepared for typical emergencies that may impact your agency.


Determine to Evacuate or Shelter in Place

This is the time managers will activate the emergency plan and follow the established chain of command. Personnel authorized by the plan to order and direct an evacuation or a shelter in place order should perform their duties observing the established chain of command.  Your designees should assist others when possible, account for personnel and visitors and shut down critical operations if necessary.


Safeguard Agency Assets

If deemed safe, managers should take protective measures to secure agency properties and structures to prevent business loss following a disaster. This should only be done if these measures will not risk health and safety, as the number one focus should be preserving human life.


Activate the Emergency Response Plan

Managers should activate their Emergency Response Plan as early as possible. Immediately take the planned steps to protect staff and facilities. This may mean evacuation, shelter in place or lockdown. Decide early on in the disaster what decisions lie with the executive and their staff, what decisions lie with the Disaster Response Team, if that is a team formed specifically for a crisis event, and what decisions lie with the board. Determine in which phase and in what manner of the emergency is your agency able to engage in rescue relief or recovery. Previous established relationships with first responders and emergency management may have determined this decision.


Complete a Safety Check-in if Possible

During a disaster, knowing that your family and team members are safe can bring you great peace of mind. Pre-determined methods of safety checks should be utilized now, such as reporting to a safe spot, texting or accessing a website such as the Red Cross, that is designed to help make that communication easier.  


Contact Staff for Wellness Check and Instructions

One of the first items for business is to find out how your team fared the emergency. This could incorporate techniques such as phone trees, social media Safety Checks and other methods to allow staff to share their status and to allow managers to inform the team of next steps.


Determine the Status of the Agency’s Physical Assets

Depending on the type of disaster, the building or other assets could have experienced physical damage. If it is safe to do so, this may be your first opportunity to mitigate further damage to your property as well as surrounding properties. Contact your board, landlord, insurance provider or utility companies to report as necessary.


Contact Funders, Governing Body, HUD or your Intermediary to Update Status

The manager should also contact the HUD point of contact to apprise them of their operational plan. In the event of a disaster, the HUD POC can provide guidance, perspective and/or access to technical assistance. HCAs should contact their OHC POC, in writing, within 15 days to: Provide information about status or delays, inform HUD of needed resources and determine availability of disaster relief funds.

If the agency determines that it is unable to resume operations and carry out its housing counseling plan, it may submit a temporary inactive status request to HUD or HUD intermediary in writing.


Follow the COOP to Transition to Normal Operations

The plan could be activated in response to a wide range of events or situations – from a fire in the building to a natural disaster to the threat or occurrence of a terrorist attack. Any event that makes it impossible for employees to work in their regular facility could result in the activation of the continuity plan. Based on the type and impact of the disaster, the priority of services should be reevaluated at this time. Managers should make certain that each member of the transition team has access and follows the COOP as they lead the organization through resuming operations. 


Identify Disaster Recovery Services

In addition to the resources and community referral information identified pre-disaster, managers should continue to identify community connections to help manage the damages, trauma and stress following a disaster including mental health referrals for trauma, recovery assistance and children services. Post-disaster our knowledge of local resources and programs will help our staff and clients navigate the complexities of disaster recovery resources and programs.


Engage In Recovery With Community Partners and Stakeholders

Agencies should be aware of the emergency planning that is occurring in their communities and foster relationships. These contacts are mutually beneficial: Organizations can seek advice on how to prepare their organizations and also inform emergency responders about how their agency can help their clients with emergency preparedness and recovery. In addition, if an HCA is part of a HUD-approved intermediary, state housing finance agency or multi-state organization, these partners may have further information. Post disaster, participating jurisdictions and local government often offer opportunities for community organizations to participate in recovery.


Be Aware of Signs of Trauma and Refer for Crisis Services

In addition to the resources and community referral information identified pre-disaster, managers should continue to identify community connections to help manage the trauma and stress following a disaster, including mental health referrals for trauma, stress, coping, recovery and children services. Managers must be sensitive to signs of trauma in themselves and staff and get information to counselors for identifying signs in individuals seeking services.

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Redlining and Neighborhood Health

Before the pandemic devastated minority communities, banks and government officials starved them of capital.

Lower-income and minority neighborhoods that were intentionally cut off from lending and investment decades ago today suffer not only from reduced wealth and greater poverty, but from lower life expectancy and higher prevalence of chronic diseases that are risk factors for poor outcomes from COVID-19, a new study shows.

The new study, from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) with researchers from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health and the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab, compared 1930’s maps of government-sanctioned lending discrimination zones with current census and public health data.

Table of Content

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Redlining, the HOLC Maps and Segregation
  • Segregation, Public Health and COVID-19
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion and Policy Recommendations
  • Citations
  • Appendix

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