When natural disasters strike, nonprofits are among the first to offer help. But unfortunately, we don’t get to choose when or where mother nature will throw the next hurricane, tornado, earthquake, fire, or flood. That leaves many nonprofit organizations unprepared for disaster case management, and ultimately unprepared to serve their constituents when they may need it most.
No matter where you stand in disaster case management preparedness, here are four important rules your organization should follow to ensure effective service delivery and case management in a disaster:
Always keep track of the services you provide
Natural disasters are known as great equalizers – people, regardless of their situation in life, are in need of the same support. Your lines may be longer than usual. The urge to help everyone quickly is strong. However, the necessity of speed should not prevent you from keeping data on services provided. Even in a disaster, case management is critical to providing quality assistance in both the short and long term.
To keep services moving quickly and efficiently, we recommend that you collect the following data at bare minimum:
- Names of family members
- Ages of family members
Your internet might be down and your power might be out, but disaster case management forms are still important! Of course, having any team member entering data into the same cloud-based case management system is ideal. If that’s not possible, keep track of everything in excel or even on paper so entering data into your systems when they’re back online will be easier.
Standardize data collection
Disaster case management only works when everyone is marching to the same beat. Whatever case data you’re able to collect, you need everyone to run and manage intake the same way.
Natural disasters often bring out the best in people. You may have an influx of volunteers, which is fantastic! The best way to keep everyone, new or experienced, on the same page is to enter data into a single source of truth. The Apricot platform, for example, can accommodate 5 or 500 (or more!) people entering data in the same way at the same time. Everyone knows what they need to collect, keeping track of cases and data becomes simple, and reporting on outcomes happens quickly.
When everyone is on the same page, you and your volunteers provide valuable impact faster. And there’s long-term benefit too. Disaster-specific grants from organizations like FEMA and the Red Cross that allow you to better serve your communities require data-backed outcomes before providing critical funding. Standardized case data, even during disasters, makes your organization more effective now and in the future.
Keep in mind, to qualify for DR funds, only license costs for SaaS-based solutions are eligible for reimbursement. On-premise solution costs may not be billed back against existing Disaster Declaration budgets.
Decide your mission and stick to it
Would you rather serve a few people very well, or more people poorly? In a disaster, huge numbers will come to your door. To be effective and efficient, disasters are a critical time to identify a specific mission and follow through with providing that service.
For example, an organization that provides bedding to the homeless serves an area recently struck by a hurricane. Their infrastructure and warehouses are well-equipped to source, store, and distribute bedding. Their connections, volunteers, and donors are sending in the right materials as specified on their website. But the hurricane has left people in need of all the basics, not just a place to sleep.
Would this organization better serve their community by using what they have to providing bedding, or should they pivot to start serving warm meals? In tough situations, we all want to help everyone, but the best way to help is often to stick to what you already do best. Remember your mission and do as much as you can – in a disaster, your community is counting on you!
Please, please, please, heed all national, state, and local warnings in the event of a disaster. The best way to lend a helping hand is to do so safely. We can’t stress this enough!
It can be tempting to go back into an area before an all-clear, but wait until an area is deemed safe by the authorities. This can be the difference between helping and becoming someone who needs help. The safety of your constituents, your volunteers, and yourself is paramount.
Staying organized and sane increases effectiveness
Where does your nonprofit organization stand with disaster recovery readiness? Implementing disaster case management training, procedures, and tools can benefit your organization both before and after a disaster. But no matter how prepared you may (or may not) be, keeping track of all services, standardizing data collection, sticking to your mission, and keeping yourself safe can guide you and the people you serve through better weather.
If your organization or the people you serve were impacted by Hurricane Florence, we’d love to help. Please click here for more information.