November 20, 2017
 
The Time to Prepare for Disasters Is Now

By Marc Freedman

Marc Freedman
Nonprofits plan for their growth, but frequently neglect similar planning for disasters, such as flood, fire, electrical outage, or other severe disruptions that can shut them down and cause severe financial impacts.

Disasters come in all shapes and sizes and can range from natural disasters to manmade events, such as food poisoning. The key question leaders need to ask is: “Are we prepared?”

Whatever disaster you may encounter, being prepared is a step that leads to a speedier recovery. Take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the following ideas:

Involve Your Team: The time to plan for a disaster is when things are calm. At least once a year, your organization’s management team should review procedures that everyone should follow if the unthinkable happens.

Have an Evacuation Plan: If you have to evacuate your building, be sure to:
  1. Post diagrams on how best to exit the structure, including designation of emergency exits.
  2. Inform everyone to leave the building and assemble at pre-designated points.
  3. Notify police or other proper authorities.
  4. Have appropriate staff help children, seniors, and people with disabilities to leave.
  5. Check all rooms, closets, rest rooms, storage, and locker areas for people who may not have heard your evacuation notice and to locate children who may be hiding.
  6. Make sure no one re-enters the building.
  7. Follow police/fire/EMT instructions.
  8. Maintain a record of your actions.
Know Your Numbers: In a natural disaster, you may not have online access, so put pen to paper and write down your credit card, bank and investment account information and put them in a place where you’ll remember.

It’s also important to record and place in a safe spot, preferably away from your nonprofit in the event the building is not accessible, important information, including insurance policy numbers, credit card information, bank loan data, as well as the names and contact info of key advisors.

Know Your Passwords: Once the power comes on you might be a little frazzled and unable to remember your passwords so take the time to write them down in advance. This is especially important if your disaster involves someone passing away. Knowing their passwords will give you electronic access without having to go to court.

Know Where Your Money Is: Before the "storm" hits, have some cash available to pay for any immediate necessities.

Know Who To Call: Whether your disaster is a natural one or a medical one, someone besides you should know what to do. Share contact information for the people who will help you keep your organization running. In addition to board members, it may include your lawyer, insurance agent, plumber, electrician, and key vendors.

Know Your Medical Needs: Everyone should keep a record of the types and dosages of medicines they take, along with the prescribing doctors' names. Don't forget health insurance card information.

Know Your Rights: Let’s face it, when you are experiencing your “disaster” you are under a lot of stress and probably not getting enough sleep. You may find yourself in the middle of an altercation with a neighbor. If need be, call your lawyer. Don't kid yourself, representing yourself in a court of law never goes well.

Learn from Others: Check with colleagues in other organizations on how they plan for disasters. Also, when you learn about disasters that have struck other organizations, try to learn what they did that worked or what they perhaps should have done but didn’t.

Take Action to Minimize Disasters: While there‘s little you can do to thwart bad weather, you can help minimize manmade disasters by following safety protocols, such as turning off all heat-creating machines at the end of the day, keeping flammable materials away from heat sources, not overloading electrical circuits, and following good hygiene practices when handling food.

Marc S. Freedman, president of Freedman Financial, has more than two decades of experience in the financial planning industry. Contact him at 978-531-8108 or email to marc@freedmanfinancial.com.

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