Security and risk management leaders face a rapidly expanding and more volatile threat landscape than ever before, requiring them to constantly evaluate and improve risk mitigation and emergency response strategies. While there’s no way to predict what crises the rest of 2023 will bring, historical threat intelligence can provide a wealth of insight into what to prepare for. Additionally, more industry collaboration has uncovered new avenues for how to best prepare.
Below are the top three threats to employee safety and business continuity in 2023 followed by key emergency preparedness and risk mitigation best practices.
1. Severe Weather
Disastrous events caused by severe weather are not only becoming more frequent, they’re also no longer staying within seasonal and regional boundaries. In 2022, there were 18 separate billion-dollar weather events in the U.S. alone — from wildfires to hurricanes to severe winter storms — causing more than $165 billion in damages. Thus far, 2023 appears to be no different. In January, California experienced the U.S.’s first billion-dollar weather event of the year. Just weeks later, Winter Storm Mara caused billions in damages and economic losses across Central Texas.
Weather events are the most common emergency that businesses face, impacting every geography and region. To mitigate risk, security leaders must encourage heightened situational awareness among employees, keep them updated with proactive information and direction and provide them with weather preparedness plans so they can not only keep themselves and their families safe but also follow proper protocol with work equipment. It’s also important to prepare for subsequent emergencies that can stem from a severe weather event by ensuring employees can be reached with critical information and resources to keep them safe throughout the incident.
2. Active Shooters
From 2019 to 2021, the number of mass shootings increased 165% in the U.S., with more than half occurring in places of commerce. The Gun Violence Archive recorded a total of 647 mass shootings in 2022.
There are many ways these events impact businesses, not the least of which being the stress and anxiety leaders experience when unable to confirm the safety of employees in the area. Active shooter events also result in employees questioning their own safety and security at work, further highlighting the importance of strong security leadership, training and communication.
While active shooter situations are sudden, organizations can invest in updated active shooter training, additional building security measures and modern threat intelligence to protect employees and prepare them to effectively respond during this type of emergency. These preparedness efforts are also a powerful signal to employees that the organization is aware of risks and actively investing in their safety.
3. Economic Instability
Inflation, shifts in labor trends, and concerns about a recession persisted through 2022 and have continued into 2023. Regarding inflation, the price of consumer essentials such as groceries and gas rose between 13% and 18% at its highest level. While unemployment recently hit a 53-year low, many industries such as tech and media are currently experiencing massive layoffs — leading the next wave of a shake-up in the labor market. Additionally, with continued fears of a recession and savings starting to dwindle, consumer spending is rapidly declining.
While these factors may not pose a direct physical threat in the same way as the first two, any drastic economic downturn can trigger civil unrest, possible workplace violence from disgruntled employees, a shortage of emergency responders and more. Additionally, economic instability carries a lot of weight when it comes to the psychological safety of employees, which can have its own domino effect on employee engagement and productivity. As security and risk management leaders conduct threat assessments for 2023, it’s important to consider all avenues of risk mitigation, including budget cushioning and more transparent communication with employees about how they’re doing.
With additional threats including an uptick in protests and demonstrations as well as geopolitical and global uncertainty, businesses of all sizes in all industries must not only prepare for a scenario in which each of these impacts their business but also a scenario in which multiple events impact their business at the same time. Employees are more concerned about their safety than ever before and for good reason. It’s crucial for security leaders to maintain visibility in their organization, build employee engagement when it comes to safety and security best practices, and create security plans for their organization to fall back on for any unforeseen emergency.
This article originally ran in Security, a twice-monthly security-focused eNewsletter for security end users, brought to you by Security magazine. Subscribe here.