Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Flood Update III

I thought I’d take the time to give one more update about the floods that ravaged our area, and how it impacted Imagine! and those we serve. I don’t want to contribute to anyone’s flood fatigue, but I figured one final update was warranted, along with some initial analysis of what we learned during the experience.

The best news of all is that despite the historic nature of this catastrophe, all of our employees and the individuals we serve are accounted for, and all are physically unharmed. Several lost homes and/or possessions, and their road to recovery will be slow. We at Imagine! are committed to doing what we can to support them during these difficult times.

I must say that I am very pleased with Imagine!’s overall response to the crisis. I have already shared stories of the many employees who went above and beyond to ensure that everyone we served was safe. Those stories remind me of why Imagine! is such an extraordinary organization.

But it wasn’t just that our employees were fantastic. I think this experience also demonstrated why planning and foresight matter, and I believe that happens to be something we excel at here at Imagine!.

For example, we already had a disaster preparedness plan in place. Interestingly enough, the plan focused on the most likely disaster scenario we might face at Imagine!, which happened to be floods. Knowing that plan was in place, and seeing in hindsight how well we followed that plan, is very satisfying.

We also had a crisis communication plan in place, which meant we were prepared when the crisis hit to keep the information flowing to all of our stakeholders. I think an especially effective aspect of our communication was our use of social media throughout the flooding. I’ve long argued that social media is an effective and inexpensive way for non-profits to communicate with stakeholders, and Imagine! had already established a strong presence in the social media world before the disaster struck. So it wasn’t surprising when the number of people viewing our social media sites skyrocketed during the floods. Our stakeholders knew that Imagine!’s social media outlets were great outlets to get the most updated information about what was happening, how we were handling the situation, and what was coming next.

Over the past few years, Imagine! has moved more and more of its administrative functions to cloud-based computing. This also proved helpful during the flooding, putting us in a position to keep moving forward despite the devastation around us. We didn’t have to worry about losing data, or employees losing access to important documents or software programs that allowed them to do their jobs. Even if we sustained damage to our administrative offices (which thankfully we didn’t), due to our moving to cloud-based solutions, we still would have been in a good position to continue operating as normally as possible under the circumstances.

Speaking of which, I am so proud of the way employees have quickly returned to normal. We haven’t allowed the epic floods to stop providing services, or even to slow us down in any substantial way. If you came to our offices or work sites three weeks ago, and then came to our offices or work sites today, you wouldn’t see much difference. We have “returned to normalcy,” as Warren Harding might say, and I think that is a great thing.

I’m not saying our response was 100% perfect. Not everything went smoothly. And we still need a great deal of support to help pay for the costs of cleanup and repair. But overall, I believe the performance of Imagine! employees and Imagine! as an organization was stellar. A good measure of any organization like Imagine! is its ability to provide care and comfort during times of crisis for the individuals it serves. We did that, and some more.

Finally, I’d like to thank everyone who has supported Imagine! and those we serve during this crisis. Yes, we did well as an organization in responding and getting back on our feet quickly, but we couldn’t have done it so effectively without the generous outpouring of resources, both financial and physical labor, that we have received over these past two weeks. I am genuinely impressed by the way so many in our community, and beyond, have offered to help. It is most appreciated, and it won’t be forgotten.

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