Disaster preparation

For Practitioners

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

Practitioner's Guide

This guide outlines key steps that nonprofit practitioners should take to prepare their families and help clients mitigate damage and avoid stress.

When a nonprofit agency is preparing its operations and staff for a disaster, it is all hands on deck. This guide is designed to help agency staff by providing critical path steps to assist clients as they prepare for disaster and navigate through the aftermath. It also helps nonprofit staff understand how they can participate as their agency develops and implements the appropriate plans, policies and steps to avoid risk to its valuable assets and resources. Practitioners can best support their communities in disaster preparedness and recovery when they are prepared themselves. 


Update Program Implementation Tools

Practitioners may not have access to applications, forms, manuals and other tools after a disaster. It’s important to keep all program implementation tools updated and accessible in order to offer quality service to the community. Counselors should make the effort now to prepare for an emergency by obtaining accessible essential counseling tools like digital copies of manuals and forms saved in a fillable PDF format which may be available on an alternate IT system or on the cloud.


Assist with Agency Emergency Preparedness Plan

If appointed, practitioners should work effectively with the team to bring valuable information from their departments’ perspective to assist in creating emergency plans that will safeguard the personal, property and operations of the agency. Practitioners can familiarize themselves with guides available on hudexchange, FEMA, IREM and Ready.gov to prepare for team planning meetings. If not on the planning team, staff should offer suggestions and their assistance when needed.


Coach Clients to Family and Individual Preparedness

Practitioners may effectively assist clients and residents in organizing emergency preparedness efforts for their families to prevent them from becoming overwhelmed. While their immediate concerns will be the safety of themselves and their loved ones, financial preparedness is crucial in helping your clients recover quickly. The links below provide steps and resources for your clients to use to prepare for a disaster. Use the checklist to guide your clients through assessing their household and financial preparedness as well as safeguarding their personal assets.


Build Community Partnerships

Practitioners often have the opportunity through outreach events and networking opportunities to establish great partnerships with other community stakeholders. Bring these partnerships to the attention of your agencies’ Emergency Preparedness Team for incorporation in disaster planning. Continue to foster new relationships that will be beneficial to your organization during and after an emergency. Maintain a current detailed referral list or “Resource Bridge” between nonprofits and other social service providers to keep a high standard of quality of all services post disaster. 


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. Practitioners should ensure their family is disaster resilient by preparing emergency plans and kits for their home. Remember to include an emergency plan and kit for your personal needs. Once your family’s preparations are secure, it will certainly leave valuable mental space needed to help your clients plan for the emergency. 


Test/Practice Emergency Preparedness Plans

Practitioners should ensure they are familiar with the agency’s emergency plans and participate in periodic drills or exercises. Inform your manager of contact information or other pertinent changes that may impact the emergency plans. Staff should also perform regular maintenance on individual plans and kits as required, and notify their manager should they observe conditions or personnel changes that may alter emergency procedures.


Evacuate or Shelter in Place

Your leadership has activated the Emergency Response Plan and the crisis is here. When the emergency plan is activated by the manager, or if the practitioner is front line to the emergency, follow the established procedures and chain of command. Play your position and support the designees through each step, assisting others when appropriate. Shelter-in-place or evacuate when appropriate, using the evacuation routes and meet-up locations previously provided, according to the plan and disaster conditions. After taking necessary precautions to ensure your safety, ensure that other personnel and visitors are aware of the emergency and are appropriately participating in the evacuation or shelter-in-place, only when it is safe to do so.


Stay in Your Safe Place

Once you’re in a safe location follow your emergency plan, try to stay informed and don’t take unnecessary risk.


Make a Safety Check-in when Possible

Once staff members have ensured their own safety, report to others by the previously agreed upon method; text, email or accessing a website such as Facebook or the Red Cross.   


Adhere to the COOP to Transition to Normal Operations

If normal operations have been impacted, agency leadership will activate the COOP and proceed with reopening the agency. Practitioners should play their assigned role as members of the transition team to ensure the process is successful. Should you have questions refer to your copy of the COOP, then your manager, prior to making judgement calls concerning resuming operations.


Assist Clients Navigating the Road to Recovery

After any large-scale disaster, practitioners will need to ramp up efforts to provide usual services while adding disaster-specific support while connecting families to the resources they need during recovery. Some of the support nonprofit practitioners may provide include: Assessing current financial status, resolving housing and utility needs, identifying and applying for resources, negotiating mortgage and rent forbearance, scam avoidance, explaining insurance options or providing access to loans.


Engage in Recovery with Community Partners and Stakeholders

Nonprofit staff cannot do this job alone. A necessary disaster recovery tool for practitioners is resource referrals to other service providers, who may assist clients with immediate needs and help to resolve the problems at hand. Community partners may have access to funding sources that agencies could tap into to broaden the scope and reach of existing programs and efforts. Staff members should refer to the MOUs and partnerships developed pre-disaster and look for opportunities to foster new relationships to further assist your clients. Practitioners should work with managers and agency leadership to cultivate new relationships.


Be Aware of Signs of Trauma and Refer to Crisis Services

Practitioners should be sensitive to signs of trauma in themselves, other staff and individuals seeking services. Although nonprofit staff members may not be medical personnel, they may recognize signals that result from trauma, stress or inability to cope. If so, they should use their referral system to help clients or residents obtain the assistance they may require. Additional supports and resources are available for those who may need extra support to recover from PTSD or other effects of disaster.

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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

Complete the form to download the full report: