There are eight standards that a community agency needs to become more prepared and resilient in the event of an emergency or disaster.
There are also five additional standards that an agency can work towards once they have made progress with the initial eight standards.
Standard #1: Essential functions/services are identified
The agency has thoroughly assessed their services, client/community needs and internal capabilities.
The agency has developed a disaster mission statement that identifies the critical services they would provide or the role they would play in an emergency or disaster.
It is important to maintain continuity of operations during an emergency. Continuity plans ensure that as many services as possible will be kept up. Essential services are services that, when discontinued, creates a negative impact on the health and safety of clients. They are also activities that, if not performed, will cause your agency to close. You can divide your general services/capabilities into three different categories.
Critical Services: Cannot be interrupted or suspended
Secondary Services: Services/functions that can be suspended for a short period of time (for example, services that can be suspended for one month)
Non-critical Services: Services/functions that can be suspended for an extended period of time
Depending on which category it falls into, that will tell you what services absolutely must be maintained in an emergency and which you can return to after the situation has stabilized. Think about switching staff from non-critical services to higher priority ones.
The mission is formally adopted by the organization's governing body.
Staff, clients and other key stakeholders are aware of the disaster mission.
Let staff know what your essential functions are and what their role will be in the event of an emergency. Depending on your clients and the services you provide, it may be important to let them know what services will still be available in the event of an emergency.
Standard #2: The agency has a plan for how it will operate during a disaster, and if the agency is unable to operate have a backup plan for how critical services will be addressed
The agency has determined which services will be provided in a disaster and which ones will be discontinued.
If the agency is not able to operate, have a plan for how it will close down.
Do not just close your doors. Have a plan for notifying staff, clients, partners, and vendors that you will no longer be in operation and under what conditions you will resume services.
The agency has a process to notify clients if they will not be served at/by the agency.
Make sure to change the answering machine and website for your agency to reflect your closure. Put a sign up on the door as well, in case clients do not have access to internet or phone services.
The safety and care of clients and visitors who are at the agency at the time of a disaster are addressed.
Ensure that part of the emergency role of staff includes care of clients and visitors who are at the agency at the time of a disaster. Designate a part of the building/a nearby location where you will instruct staff to lead any clients or visitors. Make sure you have emergency supplies for people in excess of daily staff numbers in case you are unable to evacuate the building.
There is a notification process to communicate changes in services to key partners and disaster responders
Standard #3: Multiple communication tools are identified and established in order to contact internal and external stakeholders
The agency has emergency, after-hours contact information for all staff.
Maintain a list with contact information for all staff such as home phone, cell phone, or pager numbers and ask staff which would be their preferred method of contact. Update yearly to ensure contact information is up-to-date. Have an electronic and print version available, such as Staff Emergency Contact Information
Primary and alternate procedures for communicating with critical staff and key partners are in place.
In the event of an emergency, what is your primary method of contacting staff and key partners? If that service, such as internet for email or land lines for phones, goes down, what is your alternate method of contact? Make sure you have more than one way of contacting critical staff and key partners. These should also be maintained in an electronic and print list of contact information.
Standard #4: Staff are personally prepared to fulfill their role in a disaster
Staff are identified who are willing, able and prepared to respond to a disaster.
There is some basic training that can help prepare staff for response efforts during a disaster. FEMA’s National Incident Management System (NIMS) provides a systematic approach to prevent, respond to, and recover from incidents, regardless of the cause, size, or location. There are four basic training courses that can help staff organize and respond to a disaster that are available for free on the FEMA website.
These courses are:
Incident Command System (ICS) 100 Training: Provides training on and resources for personnel who require a basic understanding of the Incident Command System (ICS).
Incident Command System (ICS) 200 Training: Provides training on and resources for personnel who are likely to assume a supervisory position within the Incident Command System (ICS). The primary target audiences are response personnel at the supervisory level.
Introduction to the National Incident Management System (NIMS) (IS-700): Provides training on and resources for the National Incident Management System (NIMS). NIMS provides a consistent nationwide template to enable all government, private sector, and nongovernmental organizations to work together during domestic incidents.
Introduction to National Response Framework (NRF) (IS-800): Provides training on and resources for the National Response Framework (NRF). The NRF presents the guiding principles that enable all response partners to prepare for and provide a unified national response to disasters and emergencies – from the smallest incident to the largest catastrophe. The Framework establishes a comprehensive, national, all-hazards approach to domestic incident response.
Standard #5: Staff and key stakeholders have been trained on the agency's emergency plan
Staff are trained on the agency emergency plan and new staff are trained as part of their orientation.
For staff that play a key role in an emergency, it is important that they know the details of the emergency plan, not just as it pertains to their role, but to others as well. New staff should get a basic introduction on what their role will be in a disaster and be shown where they can find the emergency plan if they want to learn more. If possible, identifying an emergency manager can help keep staff organized and up-to-date on your agency's emergency plan.
The agency emergency plan is accessible to all staff.
Have a binder at the front desk and in the break room with a copy of your emergency plan so that staff can have quick and easy access to it. A copy should be kept off-site to ensure that if you have to evacuate, staff will still have access to the emergency plan. Maintain an electronic copy as well, so that as you update the plan, you can print out new copies for the binders. If you have a shared server among employees, make sure that the emergency plan folder is clearly labeled and one of the first folders they will see.
The agency emergency procedures are regularly exercised and tested.
Have a yearly testing schedule for a natural emergency (earthquake, flood, etc.), a biological emergency (such as H1N1 flu), and an electrical emergency (power outage, computer virus, etc.). Track trainings using a form such as a Training and Exercise Calendar.
Standard #6: Staff are prepared to be self-sufficient in the work place for a minimum of three days
Staff are familiar with shelter-in-place and lock-down procedures.
Have a training day so that all staff become familiar with shelter-in-place and lock-down procedures. Make sure they know what their role would be and how to communicate with their loved ones that they will not be leaving the building.
Food, water and sanitation supplies are easily accessible.
Determine a location that can be reached even in the case of structural damage.
All staff know where emergency supplies are located.
Put up signs indicating where emergency supplies are and include their location in any new employee tours. If you have a map up in your facility showing where exits and bathrooms are, mark the supplies on the map. Safety Signage is important to ensure that staff know not only where emergency supplies are, but also emergency exits, utility shutoffs, and other safety equipment. New staff orientation should include a tour of where all emergency supplies are located.
Staff should be encouraged to prepare their own emergency supplies if possible. If they have their own Workplace Disaster Kits, office supplies can be saved for an extreme emergency, or for those who were not prepared. Staff should anticipate being self-sufficient for a minimum of three days. Since preparedness supplies can be expensive, encourage staff to buy items together in bulk, to cut down on costs.
Standard #7: Vital information is backed-up and accessible
Critical documents, contact information for key employees and the agency emergency plan are included in the agency Go-Kit.
Keep paper documents in a zip lock bag in case of water. If you can, keep copies of critical documents on a flash drive (multiple flash drives if you can afford it) in the event that paper documents do get lost or wet. Then you can use the documents again once you secure a computer.
Key staff have a copy of the Agency Go-Kit. At least one copy is stored in an off-site location.
Agency Go-Kits are essential. If you have to evacuate your facility, this simple kit, stored on and off site, will allow you to continue providing your most vital services wherever you may be. It should contain food, water, essential documents, flashlight, radio, medication, extra clothing, and other items listed in the checklist. You should have multiple Go-Kits spread throughout the office.
Critical client and billing data, if applicable, is backed up in a secure, off-site location, preferably out of state.
Standard #8: Emergency payment procedures and line of credit are established and maintained
Backup plans enable key financial procedures and payroll processing to continue.
Staff will still need to get paid during an emergency, so make sure that the process will continue. If you normally hand out checks on-site, you may have to mail them. If you use auto-pay, you do not have to change anything. If staff are working overtime, make sure they or their supervisor is tracking those hours so they can be compensated afterward.
Emergency contact information is identified for key vendors and suppliers.
Make sure that vendors and supplies know how to contact you. Maintaining supplies can be critical to continuing services. Have agreements set up beforehand about supply delivery if you have to relocate.
Resources are prioritized for procurement.
Procedures are in place to track disaster/emergency expenditures.