Planning for disaster and other unforeseen events

With Hurricane Joaquin headed up the east coast, some might have flashbacks to a girl named Katrina. This year marks 10 years since Hurricane Katrina, a disaster sill leaving its effects. And when disaster happens it is usually nonprofits working to bring relief.

With unhappy events, however, it is possible to draw lessons that might be helpful down the road. Bob Ottenhoff, president and CEO of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, which was formed in the wake of Katrina, said that nonprofit managers learned several hard but useful lessons from Hurricane Katrina.

Advance planning and preparation. Communities need to have a response plan in place before a disaster, and nonprofits can play a part in that planning, encouraging community leaders to take the risk seriously and working with them to develop an effective plan. Nonprofit leaders need to have plans in place for their organizations as well.

The need for resilient communities. A crucial part of planning for disasters is ensuring that physical infrastructure and support systems, such as civic and faith organizations, can withstand or bounce back from a disaster and be sued in the recovery process.

The need for donations to be used effectively for full recovery. Managers at nonprofits that fund relief should recognize the importance of funding for full recovery after a disaster, not just the immediate need. Funders should anticipate what could happen during the next few eyars after the disaster and provide resources to meet those needs.