Disaster Risk Management: Corporate Preparedness and Crisis Management
By Augustus Douw August 19, 2017 #medequip.kenya
The impact of an earthquake, hurricane, building fire, tsunami, or other disaster can be devastating to an area, its economy, and its people. Damage to homes, businesses, and infrastructure — on top of the damage to lives — can linger for months or many years.
The critical task for businesses, particularly those operating in vulnerable regions of the world, is to ensure they have crisis management plans and experienced real-time crisis response personnel in place to mitigate the potential impacts of a natural disaster and return to normal operations as quickly as possible.
An effective response is the result of a comprehensive corporate preparedness and crisis management program that creates an overarching decision-making framework that orchestrates and aligns an organization’s various incident- and site-level response activities, including:
- Emergency response
- Business continuity
- Supply chain
- Crisis communications
- Human impact
Organizational Self-Check Questions Regarding Disaster Preparedness:
- Do I have a disaster and crises management plans and protocols to implement in the event a disaster strikes?
- Are my current crisis management and response plans adequate to help us manage the crisis we face today?
- Is our process enabling us to effectively manage our information needs and the range of issues as they arise?
- Do I have the tools, structure, and resources to proactively manage the situation and anticipate possible consequences?
- If my organization is not in the midst of a crisis, what can we do to be prepared?
The answers to these and related questions will indicate your organization’s level of preparedness and help identify areas where you need to update your planning or sharpen your skills.
The standard decision-making approaches or management structures that corporations rely on day-to-day will not work in a crisis. Corporations should have a trained disaster management certified command person on staff who initiates a command and communication system to mobilize resources internally and externally in order to begin early stage search, rescue and triage algorithms. The trained personnel should also periodically trigger disaster simulation drills to keep staff prepared for real disaster eventualities. Earthquake and flood prone areas must expect such eventualities every day and be prepared. Adequate awareness and preparedness determines the eventual outcome of a crises management and ultimately how many lives are saved.
Disaster Preparedness Materials & Equipment
In addition to well-rehearsed and practiced disaster management plans, a corporation should have an adequate cache of emergency supplies in store to be used by personnel and victims. The vulnerability level of the geographical location and its history of disasters—earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes—can be a guideline in what type of emergency protective supplies to stock. To mention a few examples:
- An assortment of personal protective equipment (PPEs): hazmat suits, masks, gloves, wet suits and boots, etc.
- Trauma intervention or first aid kits with weather related regulation components like thermal blankets.
- Assorted long-life dry food snacks and bottled water
- Auxiliary power generators and other rechargeable lighting sources.
- A radio communication system independent of regular grid
- Flares, whistles, flashlights,
- Field stretchers and tents
Employee Recovery Advisory Services
While each component of effective crisis preparation and response is critical, it is often the human side of a disaster — particularly the impact on employees and their families — that is the most difficult to manage and, ultimately, the most important when returning an organization to some semblance of business as usual.
After the immediate aftermath of a disaster, mobilization of assistance from community, governmental departments and other humanitarian organizations requires pre-planned communication. A corporation should have a team pre-prepared to coordinate and mobilize resources for transporting, recording, tracking, counseling and information management functions for affected staff and families. Recovery of employees affected in a disaster includes their health, safety and ability to resume earning occupations. Governmental benefits and insurance claims also need to be planned for, and affected employees assisted to file claims as applicable.
Crisis Management Planning, Training and Testing
The ability to manage a crisis successfully is the result of understanding your risks and vulnerabilities, comprehensive planning, regular exercises, and a strategy for maintaining these capabilities. Corporations should consult expert crises management agencies to assist them cement the following key components in their disaster preparedness policies:
- Assessing preparedness and benchmarking existing plans against best practices.
- Developing a crisis management plan that enables management to respond to any issue or event and manage it effectively.
- Training and exercising crisis management teams to validate plans and procedures.
Each disaster has unique effects on company operations, employees, and facilities. Preparedness levels, response capabilities, and experience vary among companies and industries. However, regardless of distinctive contrasts, utilizing a “lessons learned” approach, in conjunction with a corporate-level commitment to improve preparedness, can result in improved response capabilities and lesser impact from disasters. Response evaluations should be conducted annually (at a minimum), and incorporate specific suggested lessons learned from employees, industry counterparts, and responders.
Incorporating lessons learned into preparedness planning and operational procedures is an effective way to improve a company’s disaster management ability. At the site-level, managers can evaluate the effectiveness of the responses and identify areas that need improvement through post-incident critiques and mitigation recommendations from employees and responders.
The following topics and guidelines can be used to conduct post incident critiques, and potentially identify mitigation measures that will improve the effectiveness of disaster planning:
- Was the incident or impending threat discovered in a timely manner? How? By whom?
- Could it have been detected earlier? How?
- Are any instruments or procedures available, which might aid in earlier discovery of the incident?
- Was the problem or potential threat assessed correctly?
- What means were used for this assessment?
- What information is necessary to assist in the circumstantial evaluation?
- What sources of information were available on potential variables (winds, water currents, flooded streets, etc)?
- Was the information provided adequate for an effective response, or was more information necessary?
- Were proper procedures followed in notifying on site personnel, management, responders or contractors, and/or government agencies?
- Were notifications prompt? If so, why, how and who? If not, why not?
- Were contact numbers up to date?
- Were appropriate steps taken to mobilize countermeasures to the incident or potential threat?
- Was mobilization prompt? Could the response time improve? How?
- Were employees and responders mobilized effectively?
- Was it appropriate to mobilize site-specific resources and was this promptly initiated?
- Are mobilization communication techniques appropriate? If not, why?
- Was the response plan available for reference?
- Were response procedures flexible to unexpected events?
- Does the plan and associated procedures utilize site-specific information regarding the environmental, community, sensitivities, etc?
- Was the initial strategy for the response to this incident effective?
- How did the strategy evolve and change during the incident and how were these changes implemented?
- What resources were mobilized to counteract or respond to the incident?
- Were these resources contracted or onsite?
- Were resources effective for handling the incident?
- Were additional resources necessary?
- How did resource utilization evolve with the incident? Why?
- Were resources used effectively?
- What additional resources would have been useful?
- Do we have adequate knowledge of resource availability?
- Who was initially in charge of the response?
- How was the command structure set up?
- Was this different than in the response plan? Why?
- How did the command structure change with time? Why?
- What changes would have been useful?
- Was there adequate real time monitoring of the incident?
- Were communications adequate?
- Was support from response teams and/or department managers adequate? Prompt?
- Should additional procedures be developed to handle such incidents?
- Is current preparedness planning and training effective?
Government Agency Relations
- What roles of the various government agencies were involved?
- Was there a single point of contact for communications?
- How can communications to the agencies be improved?
- Were government agencies adequately informed at all stages?
- Are any changes needed in preparedness or procedures to manage government relations?
- Should there be advance planning of response criteria, aimed at specific local environmentally or sensitive areas?
- How was interaction with the media handled? With the public?
- What problems were encountered?
- What was the public reaction to the response?
- How can the communication efforts be improved?
- Is social media being used and are there procedures in place to control the information?
Synonymous industry-specific companies and trained incident responders should communicate and discuss response planning efforts, and effective and ineffective response measures. With lessons learned from varied experiences to a variety of incidents, companies can assemble and utilize accumulated knowledge to create a broader, more effective scope of preparedness and response planning.
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