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Ana-Marie Jones is the Executive Director of CARD - Collaborating Agencies Responding to Disasters, a nonprofit located in Alameda County, California. Created by local community agencies after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, CARD trains and supports nonprofits and their special needs clients in disaster preparedness, response, and recovery activities. CARD has been a TechSoup partner for developing The Resilient Organization: A Guide for Disaster Planning and Recovery, a new 77-page manual for nonprofits to prevent and recover from any disaster.
Cell phones and "smartphones" are easily the greatest additions to accessible emergency preparedness and disaster response. Virtually any nonprofit can dramatically increase its level of emergency preparedness and planning efficiency by embracing cell phone technology. Since many employees, volunteers and consumers already carry cell phones, this approach doesn't necessarily require buying anything new. If the phones are already familiar to the user, little time will be needed to┬á teach new technology, and the tech support systems for cell phones is readily accessible ' in stores, via phone, and online. Remember that even if the reception and signal fail, the programmed information is still available!
Among the most useful ways to embrace the cell phone solution is to dedicate a few minutes at staff meetings and gatherings to help program phones. Have people pull them out and enter these numbers and information immediately. Some of the most basic things to program include:
Actively helping staff and volunteers to program their phones will directly and immediately increase their personal preparedness. Further, the safety and preparedness of staff is the cornerstone to a nonprofit's preparedness and resilience, which in turn is crucial to their consumers getting the support they need before, during, and after a disaster. For people with smartphones"(Androids, BlackBerrys, Treos, iPhones, and other mobile devices with advanced features), pictures, maps, software applications, and entire documents can be readily available. Anyone with easy access to the Internet can be a great help in an emergency, and before an emergency you can download all form and fashion of health, safety, and preparedness applications. See some of our recent discoveries at www.cardcanhelp.org/phonetoolsDepending on the phones you are working with, you can program users to send and receive group voice blasts or group text messages ' instantly alerting your team to your situation. Cell phone text messages can be sent to or from email accounts, as well. Whether or not all the phones have the ability to send and receive group messages, any phone that can receive text messages can also receive "tweets" from a designated Twitter account (or text updates from other social media platforms) - allowing you to get information out quickly to a select group. If you are diligent about having people program information into their phones, in a short time everyone will be proficient at programming their phones (and others'); you'll make your network of cell phones more powerful and effective, and everyone will be left walking the world with preparedness in their pockets.For more fast, fun, easy ways to embrace nonprofit preparedness, please visit www.CARDcanhelp.org.
Becky Wiegand is the Webinar Program Manager at TechSoup.org @bajeckabean on Twitter
This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International License.
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