Looking to the future: How much has your vision of preparedness changed after the disasters of 2017?
As governments, businesses, insurers and others recount the economic losses from natural disasters this year, some are already planning what comes next.
According to a survey conducted during a recent Marsh webcast, about a third of the companies surveyed consider hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Typhoon Hato, earthquakes in Mexico and other disasters as catalysts to reevaluate their emergency planning.
A somewhat surprising number, however, said they were not sure if the series of disasters this year would be enough to push such measures, and almost another third said they would not be. This contrasts with the actions of the government authorities of California, which after the earthquake of September 19 that shook Mexico City, lost no time to urge the communities and people of their state to prepare for an inevitable "great impact"
One thing that was made clear in the surveys during our webcast is that the main theme of the companies' disaster planning agenda is how to protect people and property during a disaster, and get their business back to work quickly. The focus on business interruption by respondents is aligned with other industry studies.
Business continuity planning, seen as the most beneficial by far in our survey, is the cornerstone of a general resilience program. The plans that are developed - and practiced - before a disaster should help those responsible to understand the possible impacts on people, property and operations, and make policy / strategy decisions to address and manage those impacts. To achieve this, organizations must perform a business impact analysis to determine critical processes, functions and resources. This will also help identify critical networks, applications and data that will be recovered.
During an event, emergency response measures are critical to recovery. The security of life, the mitigation of events and the protection of physical assets are imperative, so it is essential to prioritize response actions, such as the need to evacuate, account for all employees and protect properties and assets . And after a catastrophe, the importance of humanitarian assistance can not be underestimated. Support for employees and their families during an event should include physical, social, emotional and financial assistance, as needed.
Once life safety issues have been addressed, business continuity plans represent the administrative and logistical processes to continue or resume operations and restore critical business functions.
Keep in mind that crisis communications also play a key role before, during and after an event. During a disaster, central messages and communications to employees, customers, investors and the media should reinforce strategies and decisions. Stay in touch with your employees as much as possible during an event. Facilitate two-way communication to determine when your people can return to work and periodically update their employees about their plans. And when it reopens, consider returning in priority shifts.
Supply chains should not be overlooked
One of the surprises of the survey is that only 22% considered the resilience of the supply chain as one of its two main risks, especially since it is so linked to option number one, business continuity. This year's hurricanes have shown impacts on the supply chain in the agriculture, chemical, construction, petroleum, pharmaceutical and transportation industries, to name a few.
Quantifying the long-term impacts of these storms will take time to classify. But the companies that are most likely to minimize the damage to their own operations and the end result will be those that had previously thought of scenarios like Harvey or Irma.
On other occasions, we have asked risk professionals for their opinions on where critical risks could arise for their organizations.The last time we did it, natural disasters were overcome by six other risk areas.
After the disasters in 2017, it will be interesting to see if the priorities change. That said, regardless of the risks encountered, a robust resilience program that encompasses business continuity, emergency response, crisis management, and disaster recovery / IT elements will help ensure effective response and recovery.