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CBOs: Determine Essential Activities Now to Ensure Smoother Sailing During a Disaster

January 2021

Have you ever thought about how your organization would stay operational during a disaster or unplanned incident? Whether your community-based organization is a nonprofit, small business, or faith-based organization, a key part of preparedness planning is determining the activities you need to do to stay open. Taking the time to map out your basic functions now will be helpful when rushing to maintain services during an emergency.

Determining essential activities is the fourth of 10 actions that organizations can take to help ensure they are able to run as smoothly as possible during a disaster. These actions are outlined in FEMA’s new Organizations Preparing for Emergency Needs (OPEN) training.

Some common essential activities that keep your organization running might include paying employees, buying supplies, or leasing your building. For a group serving meals to individuals experiencing homelessness, these might include food prep, serving, and clean up. Defining your essential activities will also help you know what can be put on the back burner. For instance, during a snowstorm or hurricane, you might be able to delay plans for volunteer training. As you outline what is essential, also think about alternate ways to accomplish your usual work.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • What activities must you continue to stay in operation?
  • If your operations are disrupted, what services can be stopped or reduced?
  • Are there internal resources that could be reallocated to critical tasks during a disruption?
  • Are there staff that normally conduct nonessential activities that could temporarily support essential tasks?

You can find more information from FEMA on continuity planning and how it will help your organization be more resilient here.

Learn more about all the steps your organization can take to be prepared by viewing the web-based version of OPEN or downloading the in-person training materials. You can find these at www.ready.gov/open-training.

Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of articles examining preparedness actions community-based organizations can take to ensure they can serve their clients and protect themselves in case of emergency. FEMA’s new Organizations Preparing for Emergency Needs (OPEN) training includes 10 steps to take to be prepared. These include understanding risks, safeguarding critical information, and studying supply chain issues.

Disclaimer: The reader recognizes that the federal government provides links and informational data on various disaster preparedness resources and events and does not endorse any non-federal events, entities, organizations, services, or products. Please let us know about other events and services for individual and community preparedness that could be included in future newsletters by contacting FEMA-Prepare@fema.dhs.gov

This article first appeared in the monthly Individual and Community Preparedness Newsletter. Subscribe here.