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Topics Below

Gender-Neutral, Male/Female, Family Friendly
Restroom Safety & Security

Restrooms – Gender-Neutral, Male/Female, Family Friendly


From an Ask-NCN Discussion, 5/3/16



Dominic Lucchesi, The Brower Center, 5/3/16
With the recent events in North Carolina and elsewhere, the issue of providing gender neutral restrooms has come up recently in our space here at the Brower Center. Our building is fairly dynamic with members of the public, private event guests, and building tenants all sharing the building each day.
Each floor currently includes separate male/female restrooms.
I’m curious to know if anyone in the group has had any experience with transitioning to gender neutral bathrooms. Has the conversation come up in your space? How have you tried to balance the needs/beliefs of all building users?



Juliane Mayne, Arts Habitat Edmonton, 5/3/16


Doug Vilsack, Posner Center for International Development
We have gender-neutral restrooms downstairs at the Posner Center, mainly because we didn’t have enough space to have decently-large male/female restrooms on each floor. There are no urinals, only small rooms with locking doors. The restroom on the second floor was supposed to be gender-neutral as well, but a group of women in our building revolted about not having their own restroom when we opened and that was not a battle I wanted to fight! Our experience with our gender-neutral restroom has been positive, and most folks in our building are very used to it by now. That said, it does cause some stress for our many visitors from developing countries where unisex bathrooms are unheard of and not culturally appropriate.


Tonya Surman, Centre for Social Innovation
We only do ‘All Gender” Rest Rooms now… they are awesome… create amazing collaboration and connection, save space and are truly inclusive…a little word… we have had lots of politcal drama’s up here about the topic and have arrived at “All Gender” instead of Gender Neutral… cause actually, all genders are welcomeA key to the solution was the creation of a ‘super elite’ universal access rest room where people who use wheelchairs, need showers or prefer more privacy can still find it in the mix.
works like a charm.


Faisal Abid, The NonProfit Center of Boston
At the NonProfit Center of Boston, we have a male and female restroom on each floor. In an effort to be more inclusive, we built out a separate single occupancy/gender neutral restroom on one of our floors that is also fully ADA compliant. We added signs in each of our existing restrooms that notify visitors and tenants that there is another option if they are more comfortable.
We have had this now for about two years and have found that it is appreciated by tenants and visitors to our center alike. It’s also directly next to our mothering room and doubles as a changing station when needed. We’ve had no issues whatsoever with any of our tenants since they still have the option of using gender specific restrooms. Highly recommend having one available!


Dominic Lucchesi, David Brower Center
Here is a look at the signage that we placed outside all of our restrooms this morning:
Inline image 1
Inline image 1

I think there is some more work to be done, but hopefully this is a step in the right direction. Any feedback would be most appreciated!


Misha Palin, Citizen Engagement Laboratory
When we opened in March we were asked by one of our potential tenants what we could do to have more inclusive restrooms. As we were remodeling we spoke to the architects, general contractors, and building owners to see what would be our options. We have multiple stalls in each bathroom and we were not allowed to have all gender bathrooms according to building code.Our solution was to place a sign inside and out of each restroom and I offer keys to single use bathrooms on different floors for anyone who would feel more comfortable using single-use bathrooms.
Thank you for all the examples of signs and videos. They would have been helpful as we navigated this territory.Here are the resources I consulted:

Inline image 1
Inline image 1


Dustin Barrington, HNS Life Center
We are in a more conservative community, so no one has expressed much interest in gender neutral restrooms thus far.Assuming, however, that this could happen, we do have a “single use” restroom adjacent to the Men’s and Women’s restrooms that also has a changing table and is designated for Families. Our original intention was to serve parents of either gender who may need to change a diaper. By default, it is available for anyone that feels more comfortable not sharing a restroom regardless of their reason.This provides a useful hygiene option without requiring us to define a position.


Angela Baldridge, The Plantory
We have gendered (male/female) restrooms with individual stalls in them (no urinals) so people can have privacy but can use the restroom that best fits their identity, and we have a single unit restroom with a shower and changing table so that folks have another option if they don’t identify with the binary genders, or if they just want to use a single bathroom. Our staff intentionally uses the single unit one so that use of that bathroom isn’t some sort of signifier. We were required to have separate restrooms by code, but we are changing our signage soon to make them more inclusive as well.

Restroom Security & Safety


From Ask-NCN 2.23.18


Remy-Anne Viajar, Sobrato Family Foundation
We are interested to hear what other groups have done to address restroom safety, security and access at any of their centers/ buildings.
Due to an increasing amount of serious safety/ facility related issues (including tenant complaints) surrounding our restrooms, we are considering having all of our restrooms locked and requiring punch code to gain access.

To make things a bit more interesting, here are some of our fun facts about our building:

  • We operate a 2 story, multi-tenant (13) building, a little over 100,000 sq.ft
  • We only have 1 FTE onsite (M-F from 8am-5pm)
  • Within this building we operate a very busy conference center, that outside organizations also use.
  • On any given day, our Center hosts government and community leaders and our tenants’ clients, which include families, children, individuals with developmental disabilities, individuals in homelessness, and people struggling with mental illness.
  • We are also located adjacent to a tent camp for homeless individuals

We strive and want to keep our environment warm and welcoming to all, but unfortunately seem to have reached the tipping point where controlled access is now needed. Look forward to your feedback and welcome suggestions!


Judy Lind, Kukui Children’s Center
We operate a similar center in a similar neighborhood.
All of our restrooms are locked. Every employee has a key and we keep keys in the conference room.
That has worked well for us.
As for access, the front door is open from 7:30 to 5pm, 7 days a week. All tenant ED’s have a key which allows them access before and after those hours. There is a gate to the parking lot that automatically opens at 7:30 am(earlier on days the garbage company comes) and closes at 6:30 p.m. Anyone in the parking lot can still exit. There is a code which tenants have to operate the gate manually if they need to let someone in.
There is an intercom to each office by the front door. If someone needs to come in after normal operating hours, the person calls the program who comes to open the door. We don’t open it remotely because we want to see who is coming in.
We also have video cameras all around the building. When there have been incidents, the police can access the video which has happened several times. The recordings self erase every 30 days and can be accessed by our property manager.
Hope this helps.


Valerie Hill, Center for Social Change
We are dealing with the same tipping point….
We occupy about 3 floors of an 8 floor office building.All of our members have nearly 24/7 access to the space, so we needed solutions that are secure but not prohibitive to easy use of the space.

We installed cameras only facing entrances/exits as to intrude as little as possible. The blink cameras were bought off amazon and send video to a cloud when triggered by motion. We only have them set to record outside of staffed hours at this point. You can also purchase very cheap fake cameras with AA battery powered blinking lights to look real.

We have schlage locks from home depot with codes on our bathrooms and main doors. All of the bathrooms have the same simple code which is posted inside our space. I highly recommend this over physical keys as they were always getting lost, left in bathroom, etc.

For the main space entrance doors, I would not recommend the code solution we have, too easy for people to share. We are about to take the next leap to access control with Salto systems, built for co-working. Each person with have a key fob which we can deactivate easily if needed. Soon they will upgrade the system and people can use a phone app for entrance instead.

As far as guests, I am working on reusable guest lanyards that would list which org the person is visiting. Looking for other ideas!




Free Trainings

NCN Webinar – Security and Your Center: Safe Shared Spaces (from American Red Cross) (from the US Government)


Paid Trainings

Alice Training (Alert Lockdown Inform Counter Evacuate)
Disaster Resistant Communities Group


Documents From Our Community (from the Online Resource Center)

Emergency Management Manual – Denver Shared Spaces/Urban Land Institute
Emergency Response Plan – Family Partnership Center
Emergency Response Plan – David Bower Center
Loitering Policy – David Bower Center
Safety Policies – Together Center
Tenant Emergency Guidelines – ECB Management Services, Inc.
Bomb Threats, Fire & Tornado, and Medical Emergency – Luella Hannan Memorial Foundation
Emergency Action Plan – The Alliance Center
Tenant Template for Emergency Procedures – The Alliance Center


 Topics Below

Emergency Communications System Suggestions
Health and Safety (Committee) in Co-operative/HUB
Approaching Troubled Individuals in Your Space
Security Protocol
Emergency Manual/Loitering Policy
Safety, Lockdown and Confidentiality
Use of Nonprofit Center During Disaster Response
Password Management
Security Systems


Additional Resources

Mental Health First Aid

Emergency Communications Systems – Suggestions?

Ask-NCN Discussion on 6/1/16

Megan Devenport, Denver Shared Spaces, 6/1/16
I’m helping a partner of ours price out options for an integrated emergency mass communications system that would allow them to communicate with all staff in the 5 shared spaces and commercial buildings they manage. Does anyone have recommendations for systems or vendors of this type of system? We are starting to price out options and are looking first at Omnilert, but would love to have any insight other folks might have.

Michael Kennedy, Specialty Legal Clinic Modernization Project, 6/2/16
I would highly recommend pulling together appropriate stakeholders to pin down the fundamental functions you are trying to achieve with this system prior to exploring products. Even if it is only a a short list. This list of needs can then become the basis by which you evaluate potential products (along with price, usability, etc). For a former client of mine, taking this early step helped them realize that they could achieve the one way communication requirements they had by simply enabling the paging function on a few key phones within their integrated VoIP phone system. Saved money and time in the end.

Olivia Markham, The Commons, 6/2/16
We use electronic communications for our emergency communications through It’s primarily designed for teacher student correspondence but we were able to adapt it to suit our needs. It a free service and is user driven meaning our tenants and their employees decide if they would like to receive notifications via email, text message or both and sign themselves up. Our tenants can reply back and ask more questions when needed. Their questions are just sent out to the “class” owners which is our building’s emergency communications team. Each tenant is grouped in the system as a class. We can choose to send out messages to just a few tenants or all tenants with just a few clicks or screen taps. We’ve never had to use it during a true emergency but it works great for quarterly drills and false alarms. I’ve downloaded their app to my personal and work cells and can be anywhere in the building or even out in the community and responding to events occurring which is pretty cool since I don’t have to be near my computer if an emergency does occur.

Our local fire and police departments are in full support of this system as well as private consultants brought in to review our emergency response plan for the building. Furthermore this system frees up the lead safety officer’s phone line for communication with the emergency responders as well as our national alarm monitoring company.

If you want any more info. feel free to reach out.

Dominic Lucchesi, David Bower Center, 6/2/16
We use a service called Club Texting for our emergency communications. Folks who work in the building can opt in to the service on our website by inputing their name and phone number. Users can also be entered manually and grouped into categories (i.e. emergency, suite 210, house staff, etc).

It’s pay-as-you-go and not very expensive.

Jaime Engbrecht, The California Endowment (from 12/15/15) We’re in the process of implementing a center-wide emergency communication system early next year. To do this, we’ll be using a web-based software called Send Word Now which allows anyone with a link (that we’ve provided) to opt-in to our database by providing a cell phone number. In an emergency situation a text message blast, recorded voicemail, or e-mail can be sent out to everyone on the list.

Karen Maciorwoski, CT Nonprofit Center, 12/15/15
Fantastic resource, thank you! We implemented a site-wide VOIP system but a few tenants opted out and negated our ability to connect with everyone.


Health and Safety (Committee) in Co-operative/HUB

Ask-NCN Discussion on 6/28/16

Anne Newman, Co-operative of Specialty Community Legal Clinics of Ontario Inc.
Does anyone have experience creating a Joint Health and Safety Committee a hub environment, where multiple service providers in one location form a committee together? As I understand it, each organization would have their own responsibilities to the Act, but somehow collaborate over and above legislated requirements, or perhaps support one another to meet the requirements?
Any experience would be helpful….thanks!

James Thomson, New Path Foundation
At our common roof locations we have an overall Health and Safety Committee made up of a representative from each organization – usually someone from their own specific Health and Safety Committee. This way there is a link between each organizations committee and the overall one for the common roof. The overall committee looks at facility related items that are brought forward such as MSDS reporting, repairs and maintenance related items, etc.

Dustin Barrington, HNS Life Center
I am glad to see this topic on the listserv. Health and Safety are a high, but often a neglected priority. Thanks for bringing it up!

If I understand you correctly, the role of your committee would be to collaborate on safety efforts beyond legal requirements, correct?

It is important to understand and comply with what local regulations define as your legal responsibility as a center (e.g. Fire suppression, egress, emergency response protocols to XYZ…). I would not involve a committee in anything that your center is legally obligated to provide. To keep things simple and clear we made facility safety a key priority for my position

However, it is very important that everyone be on the same page and pulling in the same direction in regards to health and safety. Culture creates context. A safety committee is a great way to move forward with awareness, shared training, emergency preparedness, coordinated responsibilities in response to an event, business continuity planning, etc. Aligning vested interests is a key to synergy.

Our approach to safety has been to foster a common mindset by communicating our priorities, providing common resources, coordinating efforts and championing safety generally.

We prioritize all of our Operations efforts through a simple rubric of Safety, Security, Operations and Experience. In other words, at our shared facility, our team prioritizes activity and effort to ensure that:
1. people don’t get hurt
2. people don’t suffer loss
3. that everything works
4. people have a pleasant and positive experience

We are coordinating with outside sources to provide shared resources to all our partners. We are in the process of integrating our Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) for the center with the COOP plans of all our partners so that we will have a coordinated response to certain significant events. Integration is easier if all of your partners use a common resource like or (these are US resources, but there may be equivalents in Canada).

As a center we are taking the lead with programming life safety training (CPR, AED, First Aid) for staff and setting schedules for drills (fire, tornado, hostile intruder). We are using our Tenant Advisory Group to press this agenda forward and hope to get more traction on this in the coming months.

All this being said, it is ultimately the responsibility of each organization to be prepared. Getting a committee together provides some comradery and accountability for a very important but otherwise abstract task that often gets set aside.

I hope that helps!


Approaching Troubled Individuals in Your Space

Ask-NCN Discussion on 10/13/15

Katie Edwards, 10/13
So many of our buildings are public spaces, and that means they are open to people from all walks of life. While we want to create a welcoming environment, sometimes that means we are inviting people into our space that may pose a danger to our staff and the staff of our tenant partners.

What policies and procedures have you developed around approaching people who don’t seem to be working with any of your tenant partners that may pose a threat to your building community (i.e. someone who appears to be mentally ill)? How have you tried to compensate from any innate biases around race, gender, and class in your approach?

Thaddeus Squire, CultureWorks on 10/14
We don’t have any specific policies, but we do make people aware of what to do if there is an emergency or disturbance – the procedure of calling the police and building security, do’s and dont’s. We generally cultivate a neighborhood eye-out culture where everyone is motivated to be vigilant and that has worked for us, even through a couple incidents. We’ve not had any theft, vandalism, or assault even though we’re open 24/7 to members.

We are, however, in a 24/7 secured building, which helps a lot as a front line of security.

Jennifer Pedroni, Community Partners Center for Health and Human Services, 10/14
We don’t currently have any official policies or procedures at this point, although this is an issue for us. We are currently investigating providing Mental Health First Aid training for all of the employees in our center later this fall.

Dustin Barrington, HNS Life Center, 10/14
Here at the Life Center, we are in the process of creating/revising policies and procedures related to potentially dangerous individuals.

I recently attended an ALICE Active Shooter training seminar (

The content was specific but very applicable to all forms of threat response. The biggest takeaway for me was that planning and training (before an event) coupled with increased communication and empowerment to make decisions/be proactive (in the midst of an event) is the most effective way for the people in your facility to minimize the threat to themselves and others.

Particularly, in dealing with a person who clearly has the intention to harm others… having a plan, responding quickly and minimizing their ability to manage/control the situation are all important.

Responding to intentional violence should be a integral component of every disaster preparedness plan. (You need one of those too!).

I think that we should work on a basic template that Shared Spaces could just adapt to their specific situations.

Hillary Brooks, David Brower Center, 10/14
Part of the David Brower Center’s difficulty in handling these situations is that in our mixed use space, there is an art gallery open to the public and visitors attend events and meetings. We want to keep staff safe, but at the same time make sure that staff has the guidance they need not to leap to conclusions about whether someone belongs in the space or not. Sometimes implicit bias can unconsciously lead humans to conclude that certain folks are dangerous when they’re not actually dangerous and should be welcomed. We’re grappling with how to balance all the issues at hand.

James Thompson, Common Roof, 10/15
As we act as the landlord and facility manager in partnership with our organizational partners, the following “Security Enhancement Protocol” was developed as an addendum to our building security policy (Entry, Staff/Public Access, Alarm, locking of doors, etc.) which, for public access, rests with our reception staff and the lead staff from each organization…

Due to the nature of services offered, and location in the community, there may, from time to time, be a need for enhanced security at The Common Roof. This may be due to situations such as a distraught client currently obtaining service, a previous client that may be upset and visiting the site, an individual from the community creating problems on site, or perhaps persons continuing to trespass after being asked to leave. In all of these cases, every attempt should be made to ensure that the client’s agency worker, or other staff member from the agency, assumes responsibility for de-escalation work with the individual(s). Should the individual be unknown, then Reception will attempt to calm the individual(s). In all situations, attempts to calm the individual(s) should only be undertaken at a level of safety that is acceptable to the Agency staff or Reception. Should the safety level be unacceptable, a Common Roof Security Enhancement will occur after the Agency staff person or Reception has sought authority from their Agency Executive Director / CEO (or delegate) in the case of Agency staff, or Supervisor (or delegate) in the case of Reception. It is at the discretion of agency Executive Directors / CEO (or their delegates) as to whether law enforcement is required. Any one Agency Executive Director / CEO is authorized to determine and initiate Security Enhancement. This may include the locking of all outside doors and notifying all staff working at the Common Roof of the Security Enhanced measures, the projected duration, and that individual staff members are responsible for greeting their clients personally at the main reception for scheduled appointments. Elements of Security Enhancement may include measures in addition to the locking of outside doors depending upon the situation. In all situations, should a situation be deemed unsafe and require an immediate response from enforcement, a call to 911 will be made.

Security Protocol

From an Ask-NCN Discussion July-Aug 2015

Cesar Gaxiola, J. Walter Cameron Center in Hawaii, 7/18/15
Has anyone developed protocols for security/safety concerns?

What happens when a person walks into an agency and creates a concern for the agency staff? Would the agency call the police or the agency calls the Center main office to solve the problem?

Would a violence situation have the same protocol as the smaller concern?

Any of you has security staff on board or hires a firm to provide security? Which creates additional costs with liability, insurance, training, etc…

Can you please share any information you may have including policies, committees or anything else you have done to deal with the above?

Shelby Bradbury, Nonprofit Innovation Center, 7/28/15
No written policy but…


  • At the Nonprofit Innovation Center we subcontract a security company for the entire campus. Also, every guest checks in with security or reception, logs into a sign in sheet and waits in the lobby for the person they are here to see.
  • We also have a panic button installed at reception and the security desk that shuts down entrance to both buildings if there were ever a need.
  • We have security cameras across campus as well.



  • We have a committee that meets quarterly to discuss safety concerns around campus.
  • We have designed emergency evacuation instructions (partnered with local fire department for guidance) and have bi-annual emergency drills.
  • Because we have shared workspaces and kitchens we have put together MSDS binders for each area.
  • When a new tenant or staff person arrives we schedule orientations and safety tours so that they know how to operate gates and doors manually in the event that power is cut.
  • We also have an emergency contact sheet that includes both management and executives of each organization in the event of an emergency we can contact each other even when off-campus.
  • Because we are located on the banks of the Sacramento River, when it rains good we sometimes flood so this prompted us to take an even deeper look at emergency situations for our campus.
  • We keep first aid kits in each break room, first aid disaster kits on each floor and each org has a small package with flashlights and other items available to them.
  • Many tenants and staff are CPR, First Aid and AED certified. We have two AED machines on campus.


Pam Mauk, Together Center, 8/3/15
We have previously worked with agencies so all should have emergency preparedness plans and information, and this is distributed around our campus.

We have had some more specific safety issues recently related to loitering and other serious issues. We reviewed a lot of standard landlord language and tailored it to meet some of our concerns in the attached policy. It is certainly not the be-all, but might help others get started. We worked with our local police on some of their expectations in its development.

I just sent our new safety protocols. I would add that police have had to train us in terms of our bias toward helping everyone. They note: we don’t approach anybody that is causing concern by ourselves. We come in pairs or more. Your staff (at our 20 agencies and at our front door) should call 9-1-1 when they are uneasy, and not try and handle everything from the point of view of “helping others.” Safety first.

We hire a security firm, but this is for night-time checks. We like knowing that people will not end up sleeping inside overnight in our strip mall setting of three buildings, so they check all doors one time, move people along if they are sleeping outside, and do a walk through the buildings one time. This is paid in the property expenses (NNN/CAM) by tenants. We did price having more security for night-time events, lobby presence, but that would gravely impact costs.

Megan Devenport, Denver Shared Spaces 8/4/15
We helped our partners the Urban Land Conservancy develop a template Emergency Management Manual that they can modify for each of their commercial properties. It touches on some of the issues raised in the initial questions.

Emergency Manuals/Loitering Policy

From an Ask-NCN discussion in March 2016

Megan Devenport, 3/17/16
Here’s the excerpt from the Emergency Manual we helped Urban Land Conservancy develop. It’s not necessarily the end all, be all, but tried to strike the balance between compassion and security.

“In the event of suspected trespassing in the building, please notify building management. If this occurs after hours and they are not in the building on official business, you may ask them to leave or call the Denver Police Department at the non-emergency number 720-913-2000. Be prepared to share the description of the person and their location. If it appears that the person may be in need of support from homelessness services, you can alternatively call the Denver Police Department Homeless Hotline at 720-913-2000 and share both description and location. Please keep in mind that Tramway provides a wide range of services in a diverse neighborhood. Do not automatically assume that the person you encounter has no official business in the building.”

Dominic, The David Brower Center, 3/17/16
We’ve updated our policy regarding loitering on the premises. I think we were successful in striking a balance between compassion for all community members and the realities of running a private work space.

DBC Loitering Policy

Safety, Lockdown and Confidentiality

Ask-NCN Discussion, Oct 2012

Kim McNamer, Deschutes Children’s Foundation, 10/24/12
Our facilities promote a community of services for children and families and because of the populations our partners serve, we sometimes have situations where clients become aggressive and the partners need some assistance either calming the situation down or calling the police. I thought we had a good set of policies and procedures in place to cover these situations, but one that recently occurred has brought those procedures into question, particularly around how we do a lock down if necessary and how we handle the confidentiality of the client who may be the issue. Each partner has their own confidentiality policies and we have one as well, but I have found they don’t always work together and it concerns me when the safety of the entire building occupants is called into question.
Does anyone have some good samples of what they are using for lock down procedures and confidentiality policies? Thank you!

Claudia Anderson, Parasol Tahoe Community Foundation (which runs the Donald W. Reynolds Community Foundation), 10/29/12
The safety of our non-profit staff and clients as well as visiting community members is a top concern of ours. We have the following “systems” in place to assist should any “intruder-type” emergency arise.

  • We have security cameras throughout the building’s common areas which can be viewed in real time as well as a viewed later as a recording
  • All of our alarm key pads can be used as panic buttons which will summon the sheriff
  • Our receptionist also has a panic button that will summon the sheriff
  • Of course, we can always call 911 on our phone system as well
  • We have a loud speaker system that is a part of our phone system for which we have created a special code word that any resident agency staff can use to alert all building occupants to an emergency (note, if it was a fire it wouldn’t be necessary to use the code word. The code word is more for an intruder-type emergency). Once the code word is heard, all non-profit staffs are trained to lock down their offices –our building manager handles common areas
  • Our domestic violence group also has an alarm pad with panic button in their office as well as bullet proof glass for the windows.
  • We have a sign in sheet for guests to the building located at the receptionist’s desk so in case of an emergency we have an idea of who might be in the building at any given time.


None of these are particularly high-tech, but we continue to review with building staff to ensure awareness. We review the systems annually with all EDs of resident agencies. With the amount of non-profit staff turnover that we have, we also continue to emphasize emergency training with each new hire at every organization. Luckily we have not had any incidences in our 11 years of operation.

We feel very strongly that once a situation escalates to such an emergency, our first concern is safety, not confidentiality. Therefore, we focus on keeping everyone safe first and foremost. Any after-the-fact confidentiality issues are the responsibility of the agency handling the client. We would assist the agency, if necessary, in this process. If the intruder was not visiting any particular organization, this would be our responsibility.

Use of Nonprofit Center During Disaster Response

Ask-NCN Discussion, Jan-Feb 2014

Pat Smith, Serve Denton
Serve Denton is a 32,000 health and human services center in Denton, TX. We have a large parking lot, and some large interior spaces for events that could be used for a shelter or staging area for a disaster. We have been approached by an assistant city manager to consider if our facilities could be used in a disaster response…strictly planning at this point.

I was wondering if any other centers have been involved in disaster response, or established an agreement with a local municipality to be available. Any thoughts, experience, or planning documents would be appreciated.


Amanda Herbert, Wood Buffalo Community Village I run a small non-profit centre in Northern Alberta, Canada. Randomly, I’m also Certified Emergency Manager, have a disaster studies degree, and I have five years of experience leading Red Cross and municipal responses to people evacuated in emergencies so I’m feeling kind of uniquely qualified to respond to your email!
A couple things that popped into my head when I saw your email…
· insurance/liability considerations – For example, what if the building burns down while it’s being used as a shelter? Check your policy. You might want to have additional insurance. Is this going to result in additional costs to your agency? Would the municipality willing to cover those costs? Do they have insurance that will cover you? I’m not sure how this would work in the US.

  • 24 hour 365 access – How are they going to get access to your facility after hours if they need to? Are they expecting someone from your agency to be on-call just in case? If so, do you have at least three people that are willing to share that responsibility? It’s too much to expect one person to be available 24/365. What about over Christmas holidays? Emergencies happen at any time of day and any time of year. People go on vacations, and go camping for the weekend, and whatever agreement you make with them, make sure you understand what their expectations are.
  • I’m guessing they would go through a facility check list with you guys to make sure your space is appropriate. Does your facility have wheelchair accessible washrooms? What about showers? Does it have cooking facilities? For a shelter, my municipality required these in a potential facility. Of course, we might still use facility as a staging area or evacuees drop-in centre or recovery centre even without those things.
  • Building cleaning & maintenance when there is an emergency – Who is taking care of the washrooms, entrances, etc. Their volunteers? Your staff? Who is providing toilet paper, cleaning equipment and supplies? Them or you? Are you expected to absorb these costs or will you be reimbursed?
  • What about things that are wrecked in process of the facility being used as a shelter? Like a window gets broken, or a cup of coffee gets spilled on your photocopier? It’s a good idea to go through a facility walkthrough with shelter manager and note anything that is broken or damaged before the shelter takes over. Do it again when they leave so that it’s documented. When I worked for my municipality, we agreed we would reimburse those costs to facility. I’m not sure how it would work down there, but it’s something to think about.
  • Security – if it’s being used as a shelter, are they going to take responsibility for ensuring the security of the all the agency offices and whatever you have in your facility on a 24 hour basis?
  • It might be worth asking how many other facilities they’ve identified and where you fit on that list. Are you a backup to the backup of the backup facility? Or is your facility exactly what they are looking for and going on the top of their list? You might go 10 years without a call or you might get called on three times a year for smaller evacuations.
  • What will the impact be on your facilities day to day operations? What could your resident agencies expect in terms of being able to continue with their day-to-day activities? Will there be only minor inconveniences or will their offices become inaccessible for the time that the municipality is using it? Depending on the work they do, it’s good to keep in in mind that they might also see a surge of demand for their services as a result of the emergency.


All that said…in reality, emergency powers would likely give the municipality the right to access your facility with or without your permission. When I was looking at spaces for my municipality, we signed agreements to make connections with people in advance, to be polite and build relationships. The hope was that we’d never have to take anything by force, but we knew were able to if we needed to under an declaration of emergency. Usually emergency powers give authorities the ability to use any piece of private property they wish to in order to respond the emergency. I believe this is the same in the states, although I’m less sure about municipal emergency powers…Ok, I just checked the Texas Emergency Management Statutes. Definitely the state can commandeer resources, but I couldn’t find anything extending this power to the municipal level. Here’s the power I’m talking about…

external image image001.png?part=0.1&authuser=0 pg. 11
It might be that in the US the municipalities aren’t granted this power, or it could be that they’re granted the power in a different piece of law, but that gives you the idea of what I’m talking about. They assistant city manager should be able to clarify this point. Regardless, even if the municipality can’t do it, the state could take over your space whether or not you signed an agreement if they really wanted to. Unlikely to happen, but still good to know!

I don’t know if any of that helps but I wanted to share it in case it did.
If you have any questions feel free to get in touch.

Pam Mauk, Together Center
The response from Amanda below is certainly very comprehensive. I thought I’d pipe in only because this was an arena we had board members and others pressing for us at one point. It seemed so obvious to them, and for a number of years many thought we would be a natural for hosting people during an emergency because we had a food bank, medical services etc. We finally closed down this discussion after some significant work:

1) The local city emergency response person is the one tapped to state where emergency shelters would be during a time of crisis (we don’t self-identify).
2) Our food bank noted their food is part of a larger system of emergency response and would not be necessarily available just because it’s handy.
3) Our health clinic said they would be following their own crisis protocols, which includes worrying about their staff.
4) Beyond this: we don’t really have the space or staff capacity to deal with significant numbers.


Password Management

From an Ask-NCN Discussion, 1/25/17

Owen Bailey, Eastern Land Shore ConservancyWe are organizing our disaster recovery plan and part of it is management and access to company passwords. I’m having a hard time finding a solution. Have looked at some of the password protection websites like dashlane. Does anyone have experience or advise on this?

Erin Prefontaine, The Jerry Forbes Centre
We use Meldium, it’s fast and easy to use, free for up to 5 people and I even installed it on my personal computer so I can work remotely if need-be. I like it.

Security Systems

Ask-NCN 10.25.17

Lucinda Kurschensteiner, Center 4 Social ChangeHello! We manage 3 floors of shared space in a building occupied by other tenants. Main doors on each floor are currently controlled by keypads. We are contemplating a more secure access system (fobs?) and/or other security measures. Would appreciate input from centers that have multiple floors. Thank you!

Pat Smith, Serve Denton
Most security experts will steer away from keypads because codes can easily be shared. Fobs, if stolen, can easily be deactivated.

Shelby Fox, Knight Nonprofit Center
And it is a good way to monitor who is coming in the building and when and you can run reports ect. You can also control access where some fobs have more rights than others and it allows you to set door schedules of when they lock and unlock for public use. The ones we use are pretty small and can go on a key chain but you do have to audit them somewhat often because of agency turnover and try and make sure the right names are attached to the right fob ect.

Mike Gilbert, The Jones Trust
Agree, We have fob access and issue fobs with signed agreement by each user that sharing the fob means loss of fob privilege. We log each fob to the individual.

Tom Olivas, Girl Scouts of Orange County
We have multiple floors, with fob readers / electronic locks at all external ingress / egress points and several internal doors. Fobs can be programmed for specific doors, time frames, individuals, etc. We use a program called Stanley Pac that also allows us to generate reports on fob usage, control multiple buildings and lock and unlock doors remotely.

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