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CBOs: Safeguard Your Organizations Critical Information

March 2021

Imagine what would happen if all your organization’s files were stored in file cabinets and flood waters rush into your building. What problems would you face if a thief broke into your office, stealing servers and flash drives?

Safeguarding critical information is part of preparing for a disaster, whether you’re a nonprofit, small business, or faith-based organization. Critical information is data that needs to be secured from the public and assists an organization in carrying out its mission. Examples are personally identifiable information and financial records. This might include a clinic’s patient information, a food bank’s list of donors, or an organization’s tax returns and budgets.

Consider these questions when starting to explore how to safeguard information:

  • What kind of critical information does your organization hold?
  • What are your current data backup processes?
  • If you rely on hard copies to store sensitive data, how would your organization recover if they were lost in a wildfire or flood?

This is a complex topic, but there are a few basic steps you can look into today to protect your virtual assets:

  • Store critical information securely offsite or in the cloud. Ready.gov’s IT Disaster Recovery Plan outlines options for storing and retrieving data.
  • Encrypt your data. Cybersecurity and Cyberattack Resources, also found on Ready.gov, offers advice on encryption and other tips on security.
  • Back up your data regularly. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has an easy-to-understand guide, Data Backup Options.
  • Once you understand the risks you face, contact your organization’s information technology (IT) expert to learn about the impact those risks might have on IT.

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 sixth in a series of articles examining preparedness actions 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, establishing a communications plan, and cross-training key staff.

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.