By Jen Lieberman
[Written with synagogues in mind, but applicable for all.]
Between record breaking hurricanes, catastrophic flooding, forest fires, and even Neo-Nazis, 2017 has brought one disaster after the next for communities throughout the United States and Caribbean. During a crisis, communication with your members is essential. They are counting on you for support and resources on what may well be the worst days of their lives. Even if the power is out, technology (thank you mobile phones!) and social media can be a godsend. While not designed to be an exhaustive list, the tips in this article are here to help you continue to communicate with your community.
1. Plan Ahead
Don’t wait until disaster hits to map out your emergency communication plan. Determine in advance who at your synagogue is responsible for updating your website, sending out emails, and posting on Facebook. Assign a back up individual should this person not be able to fulfil this key role.
2. Establish a Trusted Out–of–the–Area Contact
Reach out to a trusted contact who knows how to update and edit your website. Consider providing this individual with access to your social media accounts should you be in a position where you are unable to post info. Allow this individual to take the lead on conveying key information to your community.
3. Think Mobile
Even in the absence of an internet connection, your congregants may be able to use their mobile phones to access your website and social media channels.
After setting a designated spot to post emergency notifications on your website, be sure to view your site on a mobile device. If your website is responsive design, the location of that emergency content block may be in a different place than how it appears on a desktop browser. Study your website on a mobile to ensure that all emergency info is positioned in a prominent location and is easily accessible no matter the device being used.
4. Use Social Media
You members may not be able to get to your building and they may not be able to access your website, but they may still be able to connect with you via Facebook or Twitter.
We encourage you to actively post updates on social media. We’ve seen Rabbis in Houston, Texas use Facebook live to stream messages to congregants during Hurricane Harvey. And, after the initial days of crisis have passed, continue to use social media as a way to share updates and provide valuable information on rebuilding or resources.
5. Back Up Computers and Software
Regularly backup the information housed on your computers. If your membership data is stored on a computer hard drive, take steps to ensure that in case of flooding the information will not be lost. Contact your membership management provider to see if they can back up your info on your behalf. If you use a cloud-based database your data will be safe and protected.
6. Plan for Online Donations
Never forget that no matter our address we are all a part of the same community. There are so many people out there who want to help you get back on your feet. Online donations can make a real difference when navigating the aftermath of a crisis. Don’t wait for a disaster to start soliciting donations.
If you are in a pinch, a GoFundMe or similar crowdfunding page can be quickly and easily set up. We recommend YouCaring. Unlike other fundraising platforms, YouCaring charges no site fees and helps you to maximize the generosity of your community.
Please note that this blog post is not meant to be a comprehensive guide to disaster preparedness (for more information on please visit: Ready.gov). Our goal is to give you some new ideas on how you can continue to communicate with your congregation in an disaster or emergency situation. Open a conversation with your team. The time to plan is before disaster strikes.
Jen Lieberman is the client relationship manager at Jvillage.
Cross-posted on Jvillage Network’s blog.