Disaster Preparedness and Coordination

HSC has long played a leading role in the human services sector's effort to prepare for and respond to disasters.

In the years following 9/11, the United Services Group (USG) was formed to support human services agencies assisting victims. Within a few years, the need for USG steadily decreased but it had become apparent that the human services sector was vital in the recovery from 9/11 and that our organizations would likely be sorely needed in the event of another disaster. As such, the leadership of USG asked HSC to assume responsibility for equipping the sector for disasters and putting in place plans that would enable a rapid and coordinated response to disasters.

As funding allowed, HSC played that role for several years and, in doing so, built a coalition of leaders, coordinated closely with government, orchestrated training and information-sharing, and developed a comprehensive sector-wide disaster recovery plan. Elements of the plan proved quite useful in the local response to Hurricane Katrina and, though HSC's program was no longer active at the time of Hurricane Sandy, many of HSC's earlier efforts informed the response to the storm.

Shortly after Hurricane Sandy, it was clear that the human services sector would be deeply involved in recovery efforts and that it would be beneficial for HSC to serve as a convening and coordinating body for the sector. And for more than a year, HSC did so, focusing on a number of efforts:

•  Bringing together leaders from across the sector to exchange perspectives and engage in joint planning
•  Representing the sector in discussions with government officials
•  Ascertaining unmet needs for services and sharing that information with policy-makers
•  Conducting (in partnership with the Center for Nonprofit Management at CUNY Baruch) a comprehensive questionnaire of human services agencies involved in the recovery and producing a report highlighting findings and recommendations
•  Organizing a forum, a year following the storm, for the purposes of assessing the recovery to that point, planning for the future, and deliberating about how best respond collectively to another disaster. To learn more about the forum, click here.

As the sector starts to plan for another disaster, it is clear that the sector requires an ongoing function to support this effort. Given HSC's experience and reach, we believe we are the logical organization to play this role, and we are glad to receive a three-year grant from UJA-Federation to support this project. To unfold over the next months, HSC's role in Disaster Recovery and Preparedness will involve:

•  Convening an Advisory Group comprised of experts from the sector to guide and inform the effort
•  Development of a sector-wide disaster-preparedness plan
•  Training and consultation for human services organizations
•  Extensive interface with government to ensure close coordination on disaster preparedness and response activities

HSC's Advisory Group currently includes:

•  American Red Cross of Greater New York
•  Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York
•  Catholic Charities Brooklyn & Queens
•  New York Cares
•  New York Disaster Interfaith Services
•  The Salvation Army Greater New York
•  UJA-Federation of New York

For more information on HSC's Disaster Preparedness and Coordination efforts, and to explore how your organization can be involved in this effort, please contact Danny Rosenthal, HSC's Disaster Preparedness and Recovery Consultant.