04 Aug The Four Phases of Disaster Recovery: How Good360 Handles the Disaster Lifecycle
When most of us think about major disasters, we picture homes being reduced to rubble, chaotic search-and-rescue operations, and relief supplies getting unloaded off planes and trucks.
When the emergency management community thinks about disasters, the perspective is typically longer, wider, and deeper. Those who work in disaster recovery consider what’s called the “disaster lifecycle.”
Under this paradigm, major disasters are broken down into four distinct phases:
Each of these phases requires its own set of strategies, stakeholders, tools, training, and philanthropic responses. At Good360, we are continually focused on ensuring that the right people receive the right product donations at the right time.
The disaster life cycle gives us an excellent framework to think about which products should go to which affected communities at which stage in a disaster. To maximize impact and minimize wasteful giving, we work very closely with local nonprofits on the ground to get a good understanding of what’s actually needed. Corporate donors can then coordinate with us to match their product donations to these needs.
Here’s a look at how we work in each of these disaster phases:
Mitigation: In this early phase, we are concerned with taking steps to make a community less vulnerable to the loss of life and mass destruction in a potential disaster. This might include improvements in public infrastructure, changes in zoning laws, increased regulation, and fireproofing and flood-proofing homes.
“The idea is that we want to allow cities and communities to be more resilient in the face of a catastrophic disaster so that they can recover faster,” says Tiffany Everett, Good360’s Director of Disaster Recovery.
Much of our mitigation work involves supporting our network of 57,000 qualified nonprofits in their efforts to promote social justice, health care, education, environmental progress, and other worthwhile causes. Our nonprofit partners are each doing their part to strengthen local communities across the country. By ensuring that these organizations are getting the proper products that support their core missions, we are helping to build up these respective communities and making them more likely to withstand a major disaster.
Preparedness: This stage involves promoting education, training, and outreach that could improve a community’s ability to respond to a disaster. It usually takes the form of plans and preparations to better position a family, an organization, or a municipality to take emergency action. This might include stocking up on food, water, and medical supplies; ensuring that the right people are trained in emergency protocol; maintaining the proper equipment, and developing a communications plan.
One of the major ways that we are leading emergency preparedness efforts is through our pre-positioning program. We are building a network of participating nonprofits, warehouses, and personnel to put critically needed products in strategic locations around the country.
“By pre-positioning these products, we’re able to dramatically reduce our response times because we have already proactively obtained the right product from willing corporate donors,” Everett says. “In the event of a disaster, we can have product ready to ship to affected communities within a day or two, not weeks.”
Our product donations also enable partnering nonprofits to create emergency supply kits, personal hygiene packages, and bundles with basic necessities such as socks and underwear.
Response: This is the phase that attracts the most attention from the media, the public, and even emergency management professionals — for good reason. Often, it’s literally a matter of life and death. The response stage involves sometimes chaotic efforts to save lives, prevent further property damage, and provide humanitarian relief (food, shelter, clothing, health, and safety). As the disaster progresses, the response moves into cleanup, damage assessment, restoring utilities, and starting repairs.
While this phase generates the most media coverage and attracts the most philanthropic support as emotions are running high, it can also lead to a lot of wasted resources and efforts that can actually hinder, not help, the disaster response. We’ve long been champions of purposeful giving, which encourages companies and individuals to be more strategic in their philanthropy so that affected communities get exactly what they need.
“By coordinating with Good360, companies who are eager to respond to a disaster that they’re seeing unfold in the media can be assured that their donations are going to the right place and the right people,” Everett says. “We can match up well-intentioned businesses with nonprofits working on the ground and who have a very good sense for what’s needed by the local community.”
Recovery: After the immediate threats to safety have been addressed and some level of stability has been achieved, the road to recovery begins. And it can last months, years, and even decades. This phase requires strategic planning that addresses the long-term needs of the community, including housing, employment, economic development, infrastructure, and other hefty concerns.
This is the phase that perhaps gets the least attention although it’s no less important to the overall revitalization of the community than the initial disaster response. This gap in disaster management is one that Good360 is working to help address through strategic product donations.
An important paradigm to understand here is what’s called “disaster risk reduction.” In this effort, the community’s vulnerabilities are comprehensively assessed so that efforts can be made to shore up these weaknesses in the event of future disasters. These initiatives become part of the mitigation phase, completing the lifecycle of disaster.
“It’s this constant cycle of mitigating, preparing, responding, and recovery,” Everett says. “The ultimate goal is to build resiliency. At Good360, we are constantly looking for ways to contribute to the long-term needs of impacted populations so that they are healthier and stronger post-disaster than before the event happened.”
To do this at scale, we have spearheaded initiatives such as forming the Good360 National Disaster Recovery Council to coordinate and implement more strategic disaster recovery efforts. We have built platforms such as our Good360 Marketplace to give nonprofits the ability to select needed goods from a catalog of donations, and our DisasterRecovery360 tool to give visibility into actual needs in a particular disaster.
All of these initiatives and tools help educate both corporate donors and nonprofits on how needs can shift and change during a disaster. As more stakeholders understand the disaster life cycle, the less waste we create, and the greater the impact we can make.