Prepare For Crisis Before The Tidal Wave Hits

If events such as the shootings at Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, Calif. and Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, Colo., have revealed anything, it might be that nonprofits are not immune from violent attacks. Coupled with other risks such as natural disasters, financial embezzlement, and cyber-attacks — nonprofits are as perceptible to external threats as ever.

During his presentation, “When the Great Wave at Kanagawa Hits: How Nonprofits Can Prepare for a Crisis” at the 2017 Nonprofit Risk Summit in Philadelphia, Pa., Bill Powell, area executive vice president for nonprofit practice for Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., discussed the ins and outs of preparing for the worst.

    Planning for emergencies is part of best practices and responsible nonprofit management, Powell said. Inland Regional Center, for instance, prepared for such events with staff. Important considerations to make include:

  • Evaluate risks, particularly the effects as opposed to the causes. Causes can be unpredictable and stem from scenarios difficult to prevent. Establishing plans for loss of facility, technological disruptions such as downed websites, breaks in operations, and employee assistance programs and counseling is a more reliable means of being prepared when and if crisis strikes;
  • Coordinate with local first responders. Inland, for instance, conducted drills in which staff were instructed to flee the building in active-shooter scenarios. Local first responders, upon arriving at the scene, instructed staff to get back inside as per their own best practices. Avoid confusion and promote synergy by involving first responders into your various crisis-management plans;
  • Establish an emergency-response team of just a handful of team members as to avoid too many cooks in the kitchen. Team considerations might include securing alternate sites in matters of emergency. Inland worked out of a local church for a few months after the shooting. Response might also include development of a phone tree with multiple phone numbers for each person to aid in situations in which organization leadership is trying to locate staff;
  • Insure. Many policies have crisis response as part of general-liability coverage. Evaluate the utility of such policies as crisis-response dollars can be used to engage crisis-response firms, public-relations firms, and grief counselors; and,
  • Test. Consider potential crises and test procedures. Consider your crisis-management plan as a living document. Review and rewrite as testing results dictate.