While many companies offer Employee Assistance Programs, disaster relief is an element of employee assistance that, unless an organization has experienced a disaster in their home community, may not be fully developed or integrated into a Business Continuity Plan or Disaster Preparedness Plan.

  • Experts in disaster recovery say that it takes a minimum of three to five years for families to begin to recover, and in some cases of severe damage and loss, it can take up to ten years.
  • In the wake of a disaster, employees are dealing with the daunting challenges of:
    • rebuilding homes;
    • replacing some or all personal belongings;
    • relocating their place of residence (either temporarily or permanently);
    • finding a new school for their children;
    • caring for aging family members;
    • navigating mounds of paperwork, especially insurance claims; and
    • dealing with post-traumatic stress, anxiety and depression.
  • The long-term recovery process is slow and may place a strain on companies who have a significant number of employees struggling to recover.
  • Comprehensive employee disaster assistance programs can alleviate some of the exigent circumstances facing individuals and facilitate the return to normalcy as quickly as possible, for both the benefit of the employee and the organization.

Innovative Practices

In the immediate aftermath of a disaster, private and corporate grantmakers have:

  • Established new employee disaster assistance funds, in cooperation with local community foundations, in order to fund short and long-term recovery expenses;
  • Distributed Visa Gift Cards and Home Depot cards which can be used at the discretion of the employee;
  • Helped to restore employee’s homes to a safe condition;
  • Assisted employees with temporary housing and/or relocation;
  • Hosted educational workshops on a variety of topics, including:
    • Insurance claims and processes;
    • FEMAFederal Emergency Management Agency assistance and grants;
    • Applying for State assistance and home rebuilding grants;
    • Managing stress and anxiety; and
    • How to talk to children about the disaster (loss of their home, transfer to a new school, being separated from their friends, etc.).
  • Assisted employees with securing psychological counseling.


Key Takeaways

  1. When a disaster strikes, employees need immediate relief and long-term recovery assistance.
  2. Disasters can impact individuals and communities for many years.
  3. Foundations and corporations understand the importance of protecting and helping their workforce.
  4. Employee Assistance Programs must include strategies, programs, resources and finances dedicated for helping employees in times of disaster. These programs need to be comprehensive and on-going.
  5. Company productivity, morale, and employee turnover are dependent upon employees’ expedient return to normal life.
  6. Organizational Disaster Preparedness Plans should include training on how employees can protect themselves and their families and mitigate damage and loss of life in the event of a disaster.
  7. Preparedness training is essential and can reduce the need for robust assistance post-disaster.

Further Reading