A new report from The New York Academy of
Medicine (NYAM), “Resilient Communities: Empowering Older
Adults in Disasters and Daily Life,” was recently
released. The study addresses increasing rates of natural catastrophic
events with a rapidly aging population. The report looks at
the vulnerabilities of older adults, but also the role many older
adults can play in leading and supporting their communities during
The report draws on data collected immediately after Superstorm Sandy,
and interviews with older adults, experts and leaders of community-based
organizations in affected neighborhoods. The purpose was to formulate
a series of key lessons and actionable recommendations on disaster
preparedness for seniors.
While “Resilient Communities” studied the impact and
role of older adults in emergencies in New York City, most of the
lessons and recommendations can apply to communities across the nation.
radio awakens you to learn that there is an event with potentially
harmful impacts on your organization. Surprises are inevitable in the arena
of volunteerism. You and the corps of volunteers need to
move fast. A trained Rapid Response Team (RRT) of volunteer
advocates can move into action quickly, but only if they are trained
and prepared. Here are the steps to organize a RRT.
1. Rapid Response Teams should be
an ongoing functional part of the way the organization manages
a. Teams can be appointed by a board president and executive
director, or chief administrator.
b. Members need clearly delineated set of expectations—guidelines,
c. Members are trained to handle potential crises.
d. Individuals who are appointed represent the board
of directors, subject matter specialists, staff, and volunteers
e. Ideal size is 3 -5 members; with potential specialists
who serve only for certain issues
f. Have a flexible enough structure to appoint an emergency
rapid response team for a topic not previously planned for
g. The group needs authority to mobilize staff, volunteers,
and fiscal resources
2. Train the team on issues
a. Make a list of issues with the to potential disrupt services
or impact funding –including natural disasters. (For
example, how can you meet payroll if the office is flooded?)
b. Get experts to train the team on each of the issues.
c. Outline who controls information, resources, or influence
related to each issue—funders, legislative or funding
bodies, elected officials, law enforcement.
d. Stress the control of information to the media. Work
this out in advance
e. Appoint members to work with people from other organizations
who might be impacted by the various issues.
f. Make a checklist to determine when the organization
will take action.
g. Provide the group with written material from groups
or individuals who disagree with the organization on a particular
h. Create a monitoring process on the issue, even when
the crisis subsides
3. Determining a course of action
a. After information gathering, develop a mechanism to
determine a course of action.
b. Seek approval from the board of directors or appropriate
c. Discuss a range of possible actions
f. Mobilizing supporters
g. Joining other organizations
h. Media outreach