The 7 Elements of a Disaster Preparedness Plan for Nonprofit Organizations

September 28, 2022
fountain pen lying on " Emergency Preparedness Checklist " form

There is no telling when a disaster might strike and, the most effective tool to keep nonprofit team members and the residents they care for safe in the event of a disaster is a comprehensive disaster preparedness plan.

Many nonprofit organizations are required to have some sort of disaster preparedness plan per their insurance, regulatory or municipal requirements. However, what is required and what is practical can differ, with some plans missing key safety elements. Without a comprehensive plan, nonprofits run the risk of chaos during a life-threatening situation.

Consider these seven essential elements of a basic disaster preparedness plan:

1. Emergency response team: When disaster hits a nonprofit organization, staff and residents need to know what steps to take and who is in charge. Before a plan can be made, nonprofit leaders should form an emergency response team with defined roles, responsibilities and a chain of command for everyone involved.

2. Risk assessment: Organizations across the globe are impacted by different risks based on their geographic location, property, population and more. A comprehensive risk assessment can help nonprofit leaders identify areas that could pose a threat in the event of an emergency.

3. Communications strategy: Emergencies, especially natural disasters, may impact power or phone service. Especially for human service organizations, disaster preparedness plans must allow for communication strategies absent cellular and land-line phone services. This can include satellite phones, citizen band or CB radios, 5G internet routers and old-school phone tree planning with those outside of harm’s way are just a few potential resources to consider.

4. Hazard specific action plans: As mentioned above, a risk assessment may reveal hazards specific to an organization. Once the hazards have been identified, specific plans should be developed. For example, a fire threat will require an evacuation plan, while an active shooter situation may require shelter in place protocols.

5. Training and exercises: With a plan established, all on-site personnel should be properly trained and made aware of the chain of command. Exercises or drills should be conducted to ensure everyone understands their role and how the plan works in practical terms. During these exercises, the emergency response team can assess what works and what needs to be adjusted.

6. After action reports: When an emergency does happen, the emergency response team should put together an after-action report to analyze how well the plan worked and where improvement may be needed.

7. Annual reviews: In addition to after-action reports, nonprofit leaders should review their disaster preparedness plan annually to ensure all hazards are considered and the property is insured to value. This is a good time to consult an insurance agent or broker to ensure any monetary aspects of the organization are protected in the event of a disaster including property damage, business interruption and niches including flood insurance.

A disaster may not seem imminent throughout day-to-day operations but having a well-considered disaster preparedness plan can save lives. With the help of a specialty insurance brokerage like Lamb Insurance Services that understands the nuanced needs of nonprofit organizations, nonprofit leaders can properly protect their property, develop a disaster preparedness plan and put their team members and residents at ease.

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