Since 2017, our country has experienced 84 disasters that have exceeded $1 billion in damages. This doesn’t include the still-rising costs of COVID-19.
The frequency of such disasters has served as a wake-up call for many businesses, prompting them to make much-needed updates to their business continuity plans, and creating a significant uptick in their humanitarian giving for disasters, from $849 million in 2017 to more than $1.4 billion in 2021.
As longtime members of the disaster relief community, the American Logistics Aid Network (ALAN) applauds both of these developments, especially since some experts are predicting an increase in both in the number and magnitude of disasters.
However, ALAN is also concerned because true disaster preparation and response require an ongoing commitment, not just a high-energy effort while those subjects are making headlines. And it’s possible that after nearly two years of continuous catastrophes, many companies may be approaching a state of disaster planning (and humanitarian) fatigue.
Following are a few suggestions for combatting that phenomenon within your organization:
Take disaster planning and response beyond the boardroom. Your business may feel like it’s done a thorough job with its disaster plan. Yet you would be surprised at how much value a few new voices can bring to the table. Allowing grassroots-level employees to participate in your planning efforts could alert you to many potential gaps that you otherwise might not have discovered. Just as important is providing them with more say about the humanitarian causes that they would like your organization to support, to make them feel like a more meaningful part of your philanthropic efforts.
Mix up your disaster preparation messaging. Whoever said, “variety is the spice of life” clearly knew something about effective disaster preparation. If you’re already engaging in proactive disaster training activities such as quarterly drills, consider augmenting them with other tools like an e-mail blast, disaster fair or disaster game. Bringing in guest trainers or speakers is another effective way to liven things up, as is using some of the excellent resources that have already been prepared by FEMA and other organizations.
Don’t go it alone. Over the years, ALAN has watched many organizations significantly improve their disaster relief efforts simply by checking their egos at the door. Instead of trying to create their plans and response activities independently, they elected to take a more collaborative approach that involved other organizations, greater transparency and more coordination. Now is the time for your organization to consider migrating to a similar model. Get to know your community partners — including non-profit organizations and emergency management professionals — and find out how you can work together to create a village of disaster planning and response resources that everyone can learn and benefit from. All of your efforts will be better and stronger because of it.
Even as supply chains continue to work towards stabilization in 2022, businesses will continue to deal with more disruptions. No organization can afford to take a more relaxed approach to disaster planning or corporate responsibility just yet – if ever. In fact, putting high levels of energy and effort into the challenge of disaster prevention and mitigation may have become the new normal.
Kathy Fulton is executive director of American Logistics Aid Network (ALAN).
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