28 Mar 4 Ways for Companies to Be More Strategic About Disaster Preparedness
Last year, we launched the Resilient Response initiative to encourage corporations to take a more thoughtful approach to disaster giving and do their part to build stronger communities that can better withstand future disasters. We believe that the key to resilience is preparedness. Being prepared starts with realizing that a disaster will strike your company, your employees or your customers at some point in the future because no community is completely immune to a large-scale disaster. Being prepared means having plans in place to respond effectively in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. Just as crucially, it also means understanding that most disasters have a long lifecycle and that the recovery phase is often measured in years, not months. By taking the long view on disaster giving, corporations can be less reactionary and more proactive in their preparedness planning. Here are some key ways that private sector organizations can be more strategic with their disaster preparedness.
- Help yourself before you help others.
You know how the flight attendant instructs you to put a mask on yourself before helping a child in the event of loss of cabin pressure? The same concept applies here. When disaster strikes, your first priority should be getting your own business up and running again before turning your attention to responding to the needs of others in the community. You’ll want to make sure your employees are taken care of, and any damage to your infrastructure is repaired.By staying open, you can continue to serve your community, especially if you’re operating a grocery store, restaurant, hardware store or some other service-oriented business. Your company can also contribute to the local economy. “The private sector plays a critical role in establishing public confidence immediately after a disaster,” FEMA wrote in its National Disaster Recovery Framework, published in 2011. “When the private sector is operational, the community recovers more quickly by retaining and providing jobs and a stable tax base. If local leadership and the business community work together pre-disaster and develop a conceptual recovery plan, the public is more likely to be optimistic about the community’s ability to recover post-disaster.”
- Decide before disaster strikes when and how you’ll respond
It’s critical to have a decision-making framework in advance that lays out how and if your company will formally respond to a disaster. This will allow you to determine your best course of action in a rational, clear-headed way, even while emotions are running high.
For example, you might ask yourself the following questions:
- Is the disaster zone located in an area that directly affects our business, employees or many of our customers?
- Do we have access to specialized equipment or people skills that would uniquely aid in relief efforts or recovery?
- Do we have in-kind products that would support recovery, either in the short-term or the long-term?
- What are our brand values? Are there disasters that would make more sense for us to be involved in based on our mission and vision as a company?
- Do we know enough about the actual needs on the ground to be able to help?
- Think about how you’ll want to involve employees and/or customers
In the aftermath of a widely covered disaster, you’ll likely have employees and maybe even customers clamoring for you to respond in some way. That’s why it’s critical to have a protocol in place for engaging employees and customers in the event of a disaster, as well as a plan for communicating this. You’ll want this to be a coordinated effort among your human resources, marketing, crisis response and public relations teams, not to mention your senior leadership. Some questions you might consider addressing beforehand:
- What’s the best method for the company to collect and distribute employee/customer contributions, either in cash or donated goods?
- How will you broadcast this process? Do you have a PR strategy in place during and after a disaster?
- How will you facilitate employees who want to volunteer their time to help?
- Build relationships now so you can leverage them later
One of the key ways you can prepare for a disaster is to build relationships with local and national nonprofit organizations that can be partners in response. Having a prior relationship means you can collaborate and move faster when disaster does strike. For example, Good360 has established relationships with partnering companies who can offer warehousing capabilities so that we can pre-position products in strategic locations around the country in anticipation of disaster. By forging these kinds of strategic relationships early on, you can build a network of partners that can be your eyes and ears on the ground during and after a disaster so you can understand the needs of impacted communities, respond accordingly, and allocated resources effectively. Additionally, when you support the work of nonprofits in your community, you win over hearts and minds. This goodwill will prove invaluable in times of urgency when you need to work together to solve problems and make an impact.
Putting it together
All of this planning should be documented and stored in a place where the appropriate stakeholders can access it. It could as simple as a Google document or spreadsheet. Remember that no single company or even the federal government can adequately respond to a disaster alone. Working in the spirit of collaboration and building long-term relationships will pay you back a lot of dividends. Lastly, Dwight Eisenhower’s famous adage seems apropo here: “In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”