A contribution from SF CARD’s August Newsletter – www.sfcard.org
What motivates non-profit community organizations and small businesses to take steps to prepare themselves for disaster? Are larger organizations, which presumably have more resources, more likely to prepare than smaller, possibly poorer, organizations? Does previous experience of having gone through a disaster, such as the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, motivate organizations to prepare for future disasters?
I recently attended the Natural Hazards Workshop in Broomfield, Colorado, a national meeting focused on better understanding and minimizing the impacts of disasters-natural and manmade-on society. Amidst the discussions of the BP oil spill, the Haiti earthquake, and adapting to climate change, one panel, on local community resilience and recovery, seemed particularly relevant to SF CARD and local non-profit organizations here in the Bay Area.
One study, “The Influence of Collaborative Partnerships on Private Sector Preparedness and Continuity Planning” yielded interesting results. Funded by the Department of Homeland Security, the study surveyed 145 small businesses and non-profits to identify the factors motivating them to adopt emergency preparedness measures. It examined four categories of factors that might explain preparedness behaviors: 1) Exposure to disaster risk; 2) Previous experience with disasters; 3) Capability of preparedness; and 4) Collaboration-agency participation in a collaborative preparedness partnership.
Most significantly, the study found that participation in a collaborative partnership had the greatest effect on preparedness-organizations that reported belonging to such groups completed more preparedness measures than those that did not. Larger organizations had, on average, completed more measures than smaller organizations, and organizations that had experienced a disaster were more prepared than organizations never having such experience. But organization size had less of an impact on preparedness than collaboration, and disaster experience had an even smaller impact on preparedness. These results support SF CARD’s commitment to collaboration.
What are the implications for creating a prepared non-profit and faith-based community here in the San Francisco Bay Area? At SF CARD, we know that the non-profit community that we serve faces many challenges in getting prepared. Two of the biggest challenges to preparedness, particularly during these harsh economic times, are resources, and keeping the organization focused on disaster preparedness goals. It seems that if we only had more staff, more money, or perhaps a big event to make us realize the value of preparedness, our organizations would be more prepared.
But the study says that while organizations with more assets and more disaster experience do more to prepare, organizations participating in collaborative partnerships do the most. Even smaller organizations that lacked previous disaster experience, BUT were participating in a collaborative partnership, had completed more preparedness measures than even large organizations with disaster experience, suggess that collaboration might actually matter more than size of the organization, resources or prior disaster experience when it comes to achieving preparedness.
What are the implications for our community? Here at SF CARD, we also believe that collaborative partnerships are the strongest motivating factor for preparedness. The regularly scheduled SF CARD Coffee Talks, held every six weeks, are a terrific opportunity to participate in a collaborative partnership that provides all of these benefits. Similarly, the Coordinated Assistance Network, or Bay Area CAN, offers the non-profit and faith-based sector a tool for collaborating with each other and government partners.
These tools help bridge the gap to preparedness by facilitating the sharing of knowledge and increasing organizations’ confidence in their own ability to achieve preparedness. Collaboration helps to reduce uncertainty, empowering staff within organizations. It is easier to make the argument to senior management that certain tasks are good investment of time when sister organizations have also accomplished them. Planning with others provides a solid understanding of how to protect assets and address problems that are common to many organizations, such as earthquakes and fires. Preparedness standards are also an effective tool for preparedness, as the authors conclude:
“Establishing uniform and coherent standards is clearly an important step for increasing professional knowledge, focusing effort and avoiding non-productive measures.”
W. Michael Dunaway and Gregory L. Shaw (2010) “The Influence of Collaborative Partnerships on Private Sector Preparedness and Continuity Planning” Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Vol 7, No. 1
The article may be accessed at: http://www.bepress.com/jhsem/vol7/iss1/47/.