Flirting With Disaster

A preparedness plan can be a reassuring road map for what to do and how to communicate in times of crisis.

The coronavirus pandemic has underscored the importance of being prepared for the unexpected. A properly drafted, up-to-date disaster preparedness plan enables businesses to act quickly and effectively during a time that is otherwise filled with stress and panic.

While your association may already have a disaster preparedness plan in place, it may have outgrown that plan, or circumstances may have changed since the plan was last reviewed. Be sure to evaluate your plan at least once a year to ensure that it’s accurate and that its protocols are effective in light of current circumstances.

After every disaster or crisis, take time to consider how well your plan fared. Act to improve any portions of the plan that didn’t function as intended or proved ineffective. For example, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, businesses nationwide have struggled with issues such as communications, monitoring state laws and government guidance, and deploying and enabling staff to work remotely.

Voice of Authority

Clear and timely communication to staff in times of disaster is critical. During the coronavirus pandemic, circumstances and governmental guidance have changed rapidly, highlighting the need to be able to update employees on the status of business operations quickly and regularly.

Update the communications protocols in your disaster preparedness plan to ensure the association can provide information to staff and members quickly, and specify how it will do so, whether through an internal website, a Facebook page, or email blasts. Make sure staff and members know where to find these updates and know whom to contact in the event of questions or concerns. You can also establish a phone tree to communicate emergency information to staff.

Appoint someone in the association to monitor applicable laws and government issued guidance pertaining to disasters, and to develop and communicate policies related to such laws or guidance to staff and members.

Need help creating and updating your association’s preparedness plan?

Visit: Disaster Preparation Resources

From a Distance

Remote operations are another critical facet of any preparedness plan. Many employers weren’t prepared for the sudden, nationwide COVID-19 shutdown and had to scramble to put rules and protocols in place. In your preparedness plan, include a remote work policy that outlines when remote work is encouraged or required; the virtual platforms to be used for meetings or events; any reserve equipment, such as laptops or phones, that will be made available for use by staff to work remotely; and how that equipment will be distributed.

Be sure your association has the infrastructure necessary to allow remote work, such as virtual private network access to servers and ample cloud storage, and audit the sufficiency of the infrastructure regularly. Update cybersecurity protocols to restrict external access to virtual meetings, and remind staff to update their antivirus software and report any suspicious emails.

If your association doesn’t already have a preparedness plan in place, the time to start is now. Factor in plans for universal crises such as COVID-19, and those likely to strike your geographic area, such as hurricanes, wildfires, or floods. As you draft your plan, keep in mind the issues discussed in this article, as well as other issues such as staff safety, data management, and financial obligations.

Every disaster presents unique issues, but an up-to-date preparedness plan will help your association weather the storm.

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