One Disaster After Another: How Should Your Company Respond?

If your company has not yet been affected by one of the many disasters wrought on 2020, use our tips below to be prepared for what might come your way.

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2020 is proving itself to a record year for disasters in so many ways. In early August, a long line of intense winds and rain tore through homes, businesses, and farmland throughout Iowa and parts of the Midwest. Just after the derecho, Beirut experienced a devastating explosion on the same level as a 3.3 magnitude earthquake - one of the largest non-nuclear blasts in history. Monsoons have flooded parts of Asia and California has been under siege by rampant wildfires, which have intensified due to the drought and heat wave the state has experienced. And, while we knew it was going to be a rough season for Atlantic hurricanes, Hurricane Laura made landfall last night on the gulf coast of Louisiana as the region’s strongest storm in over a century.

Lest we forget, all of these disasters and the subsequent recovery efforts have been exacerbated by the global pandemic

Corporate partners with operations and employees in any of these impacted areas of the U.S. have been in overdrive working with nonprofit organizations and government agencies to provide much needed relief. Many have had long-standing disaster preparedness, response, relief, and recovery strategies while others are learning from peers and from great organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. Here are some basic principles to adhere to as you develop your response plans:

  • Ensure all employees in the affected areas are safe and accounted for, which might be a function of your HR department. If you don’t have a system in place (a hotline for employees to call, or a phone tree for leaders to reach out), think about creating one to be prepared for the next natural disaster.
  • It’s instinctual to want to help others so get in front of employees’ requests to be deployed. Know that spontaneous, unaffiliated volunteers can become burdensome so devise plans to be ready with support once the areas have been deemed safe and ready for volunteers.
    • Find opportunities through one of our volunteer centers that are on the ground leading volunteer logistics.
    • Once those areas are ready for volunteer support, use our considerations for returning to in-person volunteering to ensure health and safety guidelines are followed and that your company’s risk management teams have vetted the efforts.
    • Think through the skills your employees have to offer the organizations responding to disasters. Skills-based volunteering by companies can play a significant role in response and recovery, not to mention building community resiliency. Check out Common Impact's report, Disaster Response: From Relief to Resiliency, to find out how.
  • While employees might be driven to organize collection drives, palletized in-kind donations work best. Can your company work through an organization like Good 360 to provide much-needed supplies in bulk?
  • Stand up a workplace giving campaign specific to the disaster and your top relief partners. Remind employees that cash contributions during a disaster go much farther than donated items.
  • Ensure impacted employees are aware of your company’s employee assistance/hardship fund and how to take advantage, and remind the rest of your workforce how they can contribute.
  • Reach out to your nonprofit partners to find out how they have been impacted and how they are responding. Find resources on helping you design a grant-making strategy through the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. Keep up with your industry peers and their commitments by visiting the Disaster Corporate Aid Tracker.

Stay safe and well out there and let us know if Points of Light can be of assistance to you as we brace for the remainder of 2020. Share your own tips and the organizations you rely on to support your company's disaster strategy in the comments section below!

Katy Elder

Vice President, Business Innovation, Points of Light

A member of the Points of Light team since November 2012, Katy serves as Vice President, Business Innovation. She brings with her nearly 20 years of experience in employee volunteerism, community affairs and internal communications. After leading Points of Light’s corporate consulting practice for six years, she is now responsible for developing content and innovative learning opportunities to advance the corporate citizenship sector.
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