Snow Daze!? Nonprofit Disaster and Recovery Planning

15/02/2010 at 10:05 2 comments


Does your nonprofit have a disaster and recovery plan in place to handle weather or general disruptions in communications and business? It is isn’t difficult but takes some thought and planning.

In the fallout of the 2001 terrorist attack and Katrina disaster, many businesses and some nonprofits made sure they have disaster and recovery plans in place. Now is the time to review it or make sure you have one in place.

Last week I tried to reach some colleagues and clients. They were impacted by the serious, bad weather from the Mid-Atlantic to the South and Southeast. I received automated email out of office replies from some indicating the weather had closed operations. Others had auto-reply, but within a few minutes I had a live email reply. It made me think about their safety and how their operations were faring during this time. And this is only bad weather…really bad weather, but not a Katrina-like disaster.

Thanks to the Nonprofit Coordinating Committee of New York for providing a disaster and recovery planning template you can use!

  • Is your disaster recovery plan current? Does every staff member have a one page copy to keep with them at home? Every key leader should have the full copy at home.
  • Scenario, crisis and disaster planning* is an activity businesses go through regularly. Loss of operations has a huge impact on their bottom line. The same goes for nonprofit organizations. We need to prepare ahead of time to be able to help our employees, clients and protect our assets during and after a crisis. It can mean the difference between continuing operations post-disaster or closing up shop and walking away – leaving the need greater than ever.
  • Is your risk management insurance current? Do you need to review and update for new circumstances? What will it cover and not? What should it cover? Is the deductible too high or too low?
  • Responding to phone calls and email in an emergency is important. Do you have a phone tree with responsibilities for checking and responding to communications? Caring for employees is as important as helping those you serve. Does your phone tree include a check in to see how everyone is and if THEY need help? Not just here’s what you have to do, but are you ok?
  • Is your office or site still intact? Does someone need to check? Who would that be? Is it necessary only under certain circumstances? Assuming everything is okay or destroyed doesn’t help. You need to know what next steps are and how to respond.
  • Depending on the nature of your work, your clients could be in a tougher situation given the circumstances. Do you have a staffing plan to respond to emergencies? Back-up plan to meet the needs of those who really need you? What are those assignments? Under what circumstances are they activated?
  • Appointments may have been made? Is there a way to access your database of clients or donors remotely? Remote desktop and web mail can make email and calendar accessible providing internet access is still available.
  • Where is your data backed up? On-site could be a problem if the building goes down or electric service is interrupted. Tapes are good as long as someone of authority takes it home daily. Local off-site back up works as long as they are not affected negatively by the same crisis you are experiencing. Long-distance off-site or online backup offers some more security if they are not having a problem. In all cases performing a retrieval and restore regularly will insure it works BEFORE you need it.
  • Do you have operating reserves* you can access during emergencies? Depending on your organization operations, the amount of money in these accounts varies. If you own a stand-alone building you will need more than an organization that rents office space in a larger building. But these funds can help you support operations off-site, purchase/rent equipment, continue programming.

Take some time to review your disaster and recovery plans. Are you ready for general disruptions from telecommunication for a few hours to big storms that knock out electricity for days or worse? Lead the way and make sure your nonprofit is in a position to lead and stand up before, during and after a crisis.

*Thanks to the Nonprofits Assistance Fund of Minnesota for posting this information online!

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