Disaster Recovery: A Primer for Faith-Based Organizations

by Lisa Eifert on June 5th, 2017

A recent report from the U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction estimated that an investment of $6 billion annually toward disaster risk reduction would save the world losses of more than $360 billion over the decade and a half ahead. Said  U.N. special representative on disaster risk reduction Margareta Wahlstrom, “The report is a wake-up call for countries to increase their commitment to invest in smart solutions to strengthen resilience to disasters.”

But disaster risk reduction doesn’t just happen on a global level; nor on a corporate one. The reality is that faith-based communities aren’t exempt from disasters. And as with all organizations, planning ahead for disasters and having a disaster response plan in place can mean the difference between continuity and chaos. Here’s a closer look at what all faith-based communities should know about disaster recovery.

Understanding the Threats

The aim of disaster recovery is to anticipate disasters before they strike and have a plan at the ready which responds to the needs of your organization, its constituents, and the surrounding community during and after an event.

Unfortunately, faith-based organizations are vulnerable to a multitude of disasters, ranging in variety from natural to man-made. Not only are natural disasters, such as extreme storms and flooding, on the rise, but so are man-made ones, comprising everything from data breaches to active shooters. While planning ahead for each of the scenarios may seem like a lot of work for a situation that may never arise, doing so is something like taking out an insurance policy: If and when disaster does befall your organization, you’ll be glad to have the proper support systems in place.

Creating Your Disaster Recovery Plan

The ultimate goal of disaster recovery planning is to minimize confusion and maximize safety and self-sufficiency following a disaster. Your starting point? Accepting that disasters can and do happen to faith-based organizations just like yours. Once you’ve assessed the threats to your organization, FEMA’s “Four Phases of Emergency Management” offers a handy guideline to the complete process of disaster management process, including the following:

  • Mitigation, taking steps to prevent or reduce the risk of both emergencies and their dangerous effects for each threat scenario
  • Preparedness, making rescue and response plans and operations for each threat scenario
  • Response, putting your rescue and response plans into action during a disaster in order to prevent property damage and save lives
  • Recovery, taking the actions necessary in order to resume activities following a disaster

Keep in mind that the more rigorous you are throughout these four phases, the greater control you’ll maintain during and after a crisis.

Ensuring Best Outcomes through Communications

The best disaster recovery efforts are guaranteed to fall short without one critical piece: Making sure every member of your community understands the plan and their roles in it. After all, if your constituents don’t behave in the prescribed way during a crisis, all of your planning may be in vain.

Be sure to document your plan and share it with staff, volunteers and other constituents. In addition to having a hard copy available in a central location, electronic copies are invaluable if your facility or is compromised or destroyed.

However, the reality is that you can’t rely on everyone to remember what to do and/or to consult a recovery plan in times of stress and panic. Incorporating a multi-channel communication strategy ensures that people have access to the information they need when they nee it.

One last thing to keep in mind? When it comes to disaster recovery planning, your work is never done. From staff turnover to external emergency response protocol updates, changes which impact your discovery recovery planning are constantly underway. Routinely reviewing your plan and communicating with affected constituents about key changes can help ensure that the right actions happen at the right time.




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