In a disaster, nonprofits and for-profits have some similar needs -- like having a data backup plan to ensure business continuity. But nonprofits also often have crucial roles in providing assistance to others in the immediate aftermath.
Community members are used to turning to their local organizations for help in the moments after disaster strikes, and even before first responders arrive they will look to your organization. In Hurricane Katrina, for instance, nonprofits stepped up to help without worrying about whether helping disaster victims was included "mission creep"!
While your organization should have emergency supplies and a disaster plan, in this article we look at something much simpler: what you should have in your desk or workstation:
1. Flashlight. Don't get stuck in the dark -- literally! Electricity is typically one of the first things to go out. Your office or theater or warehouse should have flashlights, but get one for yourself, too, so that you'll one instantly, and the organizational ones can be used by others.
2. Whistle. You can use it to call for help, to let others know where you are, and to get everyone's instant attention in case of a crime in progress or other emergency.
3. Bottle of water. In case you're trapped in the office for hours or need to wash out a wound.
4. Battery-operated radio. If the electricity is out don't use up your cell phone battery looking for news on the web.
5. Old walking shoes. Next time you're ready to toss some old sneakers, bring them to work instead. If you have to walk down a dozen flights of stairs or walk a mile to an emergency gathering site, you don't want to do it in heels.
Every community nonprofit is a disaster response organization in an emergency. Even a small nonprofit may become the lifeline for its immigrant constituents or an emergency shelter or kitchen for the neighborhood. The roles we play in disasters is a reflection of the often-overlooked roles we play as community anchors.
Perhaps most important to remember in the first moments of a disaster: take some deep breaths, assess what's happening around you, and plan your next steps. Look after your own safety first, as you can't help others if you are injured. Keeping these five items at your desk give you a good start with your own safety so you can turn your attention to helping others.
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