What will it take to be prepared?

If you’ve lived in Victoria for any length of time, you will undoubtedly have heard people talking about “the big one.”  When will the big earthquake hit, we wonder.  And will we be prepared when the time comes?

Although it is important to plan how our organizations will react to a large full-scale earthquake, it is equally important to plan how we will react to smaller, more day-to-day emergencies.  That is the message that the Victoria Emergency Management Agency (VEMA) and the Canadian Red Cross gave to non-profit organizations the other day in our half-day workshop on “Emergency Preparedness for Voluntary Sector Organizations.”

Facilitators Sara Walsh, Elysia Dempsey and Monty Crisp reminded us that all organizations are vulnerable to all types of emergencies, from a flooded office, power outage or gas leak, to a pandemic that keeps the majority of an office’s staff at home.  To some, these types of emergencies may not seem like big issues, but tell that to our often vulnerable clients who rely on the services of non-profit agencies to be there consistently for them no matter whether the power’s on or not.  The fact is, we need to take time now to plan how we will continue providing services to our clients in the face of any sort of emergency.  Luckily, VEMA has worked closely this past year with Victoria’s Community Council to develop a Service Continuity Planning Guide to assist non-profit organizations to do just that.

Planning for service disruptions is not a ‘one size fits all’ type of activity, so the Guide is full of templates that each organization can use to develop a unique and useful plan for their own situations.  If organizations are worried that taking the time to plan for emergencies will tap their already tapped-out resources, they can rest assured that creating a basic plan should be fairly easy.  In fact, most of the information that organizations need to create their own Service Continuity Plan should mostly be readily available to them.  It’s just a matter of pulling it all together.

The folks who know about emergency preparedness and how to do it well often talk about ‘mitigation’, but what does that really mean?  It means that we need to be proactive, not reactive, when it comes to preparing for emergencies that might affect our organizations.  Planning for smaller day-to-day emergencies actually helps us build capacity to manage bigger events when they occur.  No matter what size emergencies we will eventually face, the impact on our clients, staff and volunteers has the potential to be quite large indeed if we don’t have plans in place.  A little work ahead of time is all it takes and we’ll be ready when the time comes.

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