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Disaster Planning

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Disaster planning

What’s a D-COOP?

If the COVID pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that planning for disasters is always a smart choice. From global pandemics to massive power outages to natural disasters and more, there’s certainly much to be prepared for. In recognition of this, governments and regulatory oversight agencies often require providers like Caz Recovery to develop a Disaster Continuity of Operations Plan (D-COOP).

D-COOPs are designed to help organizations mitigate the impacts of a disaster while recovering as quickly as possible. Typically, they feature procedures and plans for how to manage operations throughout a crisis. With some technical assistance from the Erie County Department of Mental Health, we launched our D-COOP in 2017. It was extremely comprehensive and spanned well over 100 pages. We reviewed it each following year but thankfully didn’t encounter crises where we needed it.

This summer, we began extensive revisions to our plan. Our goal was to streamline the document so that it was a bit more user-friendly and practical. We finished a draft at the end of October and ran through a table-top drill in early November. Sue Bissonette, our CEO, smartly chose to frame the exercise around a major snowstorm. Without question, this is Caz Recovery’s biggest risk in terms of potential for disrupting daily operations. The test run was a success, though our Executive Team had no idea we’d experience historic levels of snow just a couple weeks later.

Back-to-Back Snowstorms

Despite having just started, this winter has been brutal for Western New York. In mid-November, meteorologists were very clear that Western New York was in for a snowstorm with the potential for significant snowfall accumulation. Meanwhile, the area was just hit with the worst blizzard it has ever seen. High winds, bitter cold, and snow lasted for days.

With both storms, our Executive and Leadership teams jumped into action and made necessary precautions. The framework that the D-COOP provided allowed us to implement plans and communications quickly and effectively. We checked our stocks of food and supplies, ensured that our residents had enough medication, and more. Miraculously, we were able to avoid many of the major issues that impacted the area with both storms. No larger programs lost heat or power, though one Supportive Living apartment in Niagara Falls did lose heat in the blizzard. The residents are now back in their apartment safe and sound.

What didn’t come as a surprise was how fantastic our staff have been so far this winter. This is especially true for staff who stayed in programs for extended periods of time and for those who braved the blizzard to relieve staff who had been onsite for days. Major storms always bring out the best in our teams, and this one was no different. We also heard stories of residents chipping in where they could. We’re so grateful to have such committed and dedicated people throughout our organization. The process of revising and testing our D-COOP couldn’t have come at a better time. Thanks to it – and our amazing staff members – we were able to mitigate the worst effects of these storms.

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