Thursday, June 2, 2011

Guest Feature: Continuity of Plans for Nonprofit Organizations

By Sharie A. Blanton
Guest Contributor, Gulf Coast Philanthropy

As we embark upon the month of June we are reminded that hurricane season is upon us once again. Luckily for south Florida, our major disasters are somewhat seasonal and predictable and therefore we should be better prepared than some of our neighbors facing unannounced tragedies such as earthquakes, flooding and tornado damage.  

As community based organizations we have a responsibility to: 1) protect our staff and property (physical assets and agency records); and 2) also to serve as a resource to our community in times of need. In my area, the Miami Dade County Office of Emergency Management has a template for organizations to use. Organization may also design their own plan or to update/strengthen your existing plan using the Continuity of Operations Plan provided by the Virtual Community Action Network

According to the county-provided Continuity of Operations Plan, “the plan should develop procedures for alerting, notifying, activating and deploying employees; identify mission essential functions; establish an alternate facility; and roster personnel with authority and knowledge of functions.” 

Disaster and emergency preparedness should not be limited to the hurricane season and wind and water damage.   Fire, electricity outages and hazardous waste spills are probably more likely to occur than an explosion at Florida's Turkey Point or a tsunami in Biscayne Bay. Having mission-critical information stored in a secure and accessible off-site location or on the “cloud” are great first steps to ensuring data is not lost and downtime can be minimized. 

An Emergency Communications Plan should be in place to share critical information with key people and agencies. Defining, in advance, what role your agency can serve in the event of a localized disaster is another value-added sign of your organization’s commitment to the community’s well-being.  Residents might seek your agency out in a disaster as a communal gathering place and a source of information and safety whether you plan for that to happen or not. Is your organization ready?  

Sharie A. Blanton is Managing Director of Conscious Connections LLC in Miami, Florida. She provides strategic advisory consulting to local and international nonprofits and emerging social enterprises.

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