Project Update: Disaster Preparedness

As the Nation Focuses on the Response to Hurricane Harvey in Texas…

…Preparation for Disasters Progresses in NYC’s Human Services Sector

HSC stands in sympathy with those who are suffering the effects of Hurricane Harvey as well as the multiple human services organizations that are attending to them.

For many New Yorkers, this event stirs up sharp recollections of Hurricane Sandy and serves as a reminder that, regrettably, the City could be victim to another such disaster.

Over the years since Hurricane Sandy, HSC has been partnering with many organizations from the human services and public sector toward ensuring that human services organizations are prepared to play pivotal roles in the event of a disaster. A number of recent developments give us cause for optimism that the sector’s preparedness for disaster is improving, and will continue to gain strength:

Mayoral Taskforce

Following the passage of City legislation introduced by Councilmember Mark Treyger, whose district experienced first-hand the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy, the Mayoral Administration established the Hurricane Sandy Houses of Worship and Charitable Organizations Recovery Taskforce to review the experiences of community- and faith-based organizations in the response to Hurricane Sandy and recommend strategies designed to lead to improved performances in dealing with future disasters.  Chaired by Allison Sesso, HSC’s Executive Director, the group produced a comprehensive report that sets forth numerous plans – such as enhancing inter-sector coordination and communications, better clarifying roles and responsibilities, and ensuring that participating organizations are properly resourced – that offer the promise of efficient systems and highly constructive partnerships going forward.  Along with many of our colleagues in the human services sector, HSC will be conferring with City government colleagues toward implementing the report’s recommendations.

Publication of HSC’s Human Services Disaster Work “Framework”

With major input from members of HSC’s Disaster Readiness and Resilience Workgroup, comprised of more than 25 leaders from disaster relief and human services organizations throughout NYC, HSC has developed and recently published the NYC Human Services Sector Framework for Serving New Yorkers after Major Disaster, a thorough guide to engaging in disaster work for human services organizations focused on such matters as integrating services, communications systems, the unique dynamics of the NYC landscape, and coordinating with government.  HSC will be disseminating the document in a variety of ways and making use of it as a basis for collaborative planning as well for supporting the efforts of organizations to develop individualized plans.

Upcoming Training – Save The Date 

HSC is partnering with colleagues from NYC Department of Health and Mental Health, NYC Emergency Management, and the Mayor’s Office on Recovery and Resilience to produce a training session designed to help human services leaders better understand changes to their command structure post-disaster and to set the stage for ongoing joint planning between the human service sector and City government. Taking place at HSC on October 26 from 9:00 am – 12:00 pm, the event will involve interactive discussions as well as a facilitated discussion about responding to a potential public health disaster.

Of course, we would all much prefer not to contemplate the specter of disasters, and at HSC we direct the majority of our efforts toward contributing to a healthy and equitable society.  At the same time, we recognize that should a disaster occur, the human services sector, in combination with government, is well positioned to reduce suffering and help affected New Yorkers rapidly recover, and that by preparing in advance we can maximize the effectiveness of our efforts.

Danny RosenthalConsultant to Nonprofits & Writer


About Human Services Council

The Human Services Council strengthens New York's nonprofit human services sector, ensuring all New Yorkers across diverse neighborhoods, cultures, and generations reach their full potential.
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