In the wake of disasters like Nepal’s earthquake, proactive efforts provide a significant return on investment when reacting to the extraordinary challenges of response and recovery; they reduce the demand for reactive resources in environments rife with life safety constraints and limitations.
There is a truism as old as time itself – risk is never static. Despite overwhelming historical evidence as a driver to reduce risk, there are still organizations with a high tolerance and strong appetite for it. These organizations can be identified by undeveloped plans, frequent unintended consequences, non-existent training and ineffective processes. However, other organizations develop plans, conduct exercises and monitor events to profile and manage their risk. They pre-establish acceptable and unacceptable risk levels to aid countermeasure selection and manage anticipated impacts. This increases organizational risk capacity and resiliency. Our objective is to establish a balanced approach to risk. How is this achieved? Through the application of Integrated Risk Management.
Working through the model, one can see the overarching need for communications. This is critical to the model’s effectiveness, and provides kinetic energy to ensure accurate information is provided to the right stakeholders at the right time; resources are applied efficiently; and the commitment to resolving the event and controlling the information flow (preventing misinformation) is firmly demonstrated. It is imperative communications are accurate, timely and relevant. This reduces tensions by answering unknowns and avoiding the unnecessary expenditure of resources.
Planning and Training (Proactive)
Planning and training provide information essential to the identification and mitigation of risk. They identify the actions and resources necessary to ensure life safety, communications and support are effective and efficient. For plans to achieve their desired end state, they must be established, understood and implemented. To ensure personnel are prepared, adequate training must be offered to enable a familiarity with how the process is designed to work; specifically, roles and responsibilities. Training must include all personnel, not just key leadership. Maintaining a focus on training and exercises, while closely monitoring the feedback loop, provides for a continuous improvement process. As globalization increases in complexity and interconnectedness; an increased focus is required to achieve the requisite balance between proactive and reactive efforts.
In today’s world, information alone is not enough. A 24/7 intelligence capability is needed for monitoring the globe. It requires multisource data, standardized processes, analytics and a team of subject matter experts. The team provides intelligence, bulletins, assessments and alerts for emerging or dynamic events. These products drive the development of operational protocols, communication processes and event triggers as part of the proactive strategy for mitigating risk and ensuring duty of care.
Notification and Activation (Reactive)
Upon reaching the threshold for an event trigger (proactive transitions to reactive), the notification and plan activation process is implemented. This is based in the totality of circumstances for developing events (e.g. projected path of a hurricane), or dynamic events like the Nepal earthquake (e.g. quake exceeds 6.0 on the Richter scale). Establishing event triggers provide a definitiveness for the notification and activation of established plans. The organization should evaluate evolving conditions prior to activating resources to ensure an effective response.
Response and Recovery (Reactive)
Response and recovery objectives require a high level of flexibility in reacting to disruptive environments. But, action doesn’t always equal improvement. In the case of Nepal, some personnel were safe, sheltered and well supplied. iJET recommended these persons remain at their location and maintained communications until evacuation could be safely effected. Roads in Nepal are hazardous in the best of situations, but moving at this point would have unnecessarily increased their risk profile. In addition to the earthquake and strong aftershocks causing landslides, making some roads impassable, in Kathmandu food, water and shelter were in short supply. While focus initially gravitates to the event itself, leadership must quickly transition to circumstances and consequences, including monitoring for deviations and cascading effects.
During disasters, widespread shortages of food, fuel, water, medical care, communications, transportation, electricity and sanitation are likely. These conditions alone should be sufficient to warrant proactive planning to ensure reactive efforts are effective. As no two events are identical, no single plan can anticipate and address every possible circumstance. Therefore, establishing the organization’s risk profile and applying an Operational Risk Management approach are essential toward mitigating risk. Effectiveness is achieved by focusing on the fundamentals. These include:
- Ensuring life safety
- Communicating effectively with all stakeholders
- Mitigating risk by understanding your Risk Profile
- Planning, training and exercises (improve outcomes)
- Anticipating disaster support needs and staging resources
As risk is never static, history provides us a stark reminder to organizations who have selected the “wait and hope” approach; fate favors the prepared.