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October 2021Vol. 22, No. 9Integrated Disaster Planning to Increase Preparedness

Written by the Capacity Building Center for States

Integrating disaster planning into regular agency strategic planning, reporting, and continuous quality improvement (CQI) efforts is critically important in helping ensure that agency services for children and families can continue during a disaster. While we don't know exactly when and where the next flood, fire, shooting, or health crisis will occur, integration ensures that disaster planning remains a visible agency priority and that sufficient resources and staff are allocated to allow agencies to advance their plans for achieving desired outcomes, even during a disaster.

Although disaster planning is already part of the Child and Family Services Plan (CFSP) and Annual Progress and Services Report (APSR) process, in practice it often is not closely linked with other agency work. By better integrating disaster planning with other processes, such as strategic planning, reporting, and CQI tasks, agencies can do the following (Capacity Building Center for States, 2021):

  • Align priorities between disaster planning and other strategic-planning, reporting, and CQI activities to ensure sufficient resource allocation and staffing
  • Share information and data among teams to inform coordinated action
  • Find connections between disaster planning and other processes to avoid work duplication
The following considerations can help agencies determine the best ways to align disaster planning with other agency processes.
Align Goals and Priorities Among All Planning and Review Activities
Because disasters aren't everyday occurrences, it can be easy to relegate disaster planning to the back burner and not fully think through the connections that disaster planning may have to other planning and review tasks. Disaster planning can be aligned with other tasks in several ways:
  • Members of a disaster-planning team (including youth and families) can also serve on other planning and review teams to facilitate communication (Capacity Building Center for States, 2018).
  • Leads of various planning teams can review plans as a group to ensure that goals and priorities align.
  • Disaster planning can be integrated into prevention plans by aligning the agency's disaster plan with those of community organizations (Capacity Building Center for States, 2021).
  • A disaster-readiness assessment can be integrated into an agency's broader CQI process (Capacity Building Center for States, 2021).
Share Information and Data at All Stages
To implement an integrated approach to planning, review, and change-management processes, agency administrators and program leads must put in place a communication network that facilitates regular, timely data and information sharing among the various teams working on these initiatives. 
For example, the CFSPs, APSRs, and Child and Family Services Reviews all include an assessment of or update on the child welfare system's performance on child and family outcomes and systemic factors. These assessments are also useful for evaluating an agency's readiness to manage a disaster (e.g., assessing levels of youth and family engagement in agency disaster planning work). A weekly or biweekly check-in among data leads is one strategy that can help ensure that this information is regularly shared among teams.

Coordinate Improvement Plans
Child welfare agencies develop plans for improvement in response to findings from performance assessments and CQI efforts. Using a coordinated approach to implementing improvement changes, team leads and agency leaders can work together to establish goals, objectives, interventions, and action steps for implementation that align across planning and improvement processes. 
For example, when working to improve their technology knowledge and access, agencies should also consider how this intersects with identified technology needs in the agency disaster plan (e.g., access to smartphones, laptops, tablets, quality broadband). Together, teams can outline measurement plans and identify performance indicators, measures, and benchmarks, as well as describe roles, responsibilities, and timeframes in establishing the joint plans for improvement across the agency. 
Once disaster planning is well integrated with other agency planning, review, and improvement processes, it can become a more regular and meaningful part of planning for the future well-being of children, youth, and families.
The following Capacity Building Center for States resources can help your agency plan for a disaster and align disaster planning with other agency processes:
Capacity Building Center for States. (2018). Strategic planning in child welfare: Integrating efforts for systems improvement.
Capacity Building Center for States. (2021). Coping with disasters and strengthening systems guide.