As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact and disrupt businesses – and as we battle hurricane season, it has become increasingly important for business owners and operators to anticipate the potential of a compound disaster.
A compound disaster refers to two or more disaster events creating additional and increasingly complex response and recovery challenges as each disaster amplifies the effect of the other. Unfortunately, natural disasters and human-caused crises are unlikely to decrease in frequency during a pandemic.
Compound Disaster Business Considerations
In the midst of this “new normal”, it has never been more important to assess and adjust your business preparedness plan, anticipating new ways of responding to compound events. Remote, decentralized workforces, financial constraints, and supply chain disruption are just a few variables important to consider when recalibrating preparedness planning. Consider the following issues complicating compound disaster scenarios:
Overwhelmed disaster management support.
Familiar state, federal and provincial government responses may be limited due to lack of availability of resources during a compound disaster. Government agencies, emergency service providers and healthcare systems already struggling to keep up with the global pandemic will be further strained and therefore, response times could be unusually high. Natural disaster response efforts require a large mobilization and coordination of teams of people and volunteers, which will include new and difficult challenges in a compound disaster response environment. An added challenge will be protecting first responders and those affected by the disaster from COVID-19.
Evacuation and temporary shelter challenges.
During large-scale natural disaster evacuations, temporary shelters can be the only option for many people. However, options that may have been available previously may no longer be viable due to social distancing requirements and COVID-19 risk. Businesses will need to review and amend their evacuation and continuity plans accordingly and consider any possible options for establishing a new meeting place. Consider how a compound disaster and COVID-19 will affect your supply chain and transportation as well.
Many organizations have rapidly transitioned their employees from office-based to home-based. Having a decentralized workforce will have both pros and cons in the event of a natural disaster. While the likelihood of your entire remote staff being impacted by a single, localized event may be lower, utility outages could disconnect critical staff for an extended period of time should their homes lose power. Consider your options in this scenario. Is there a way to make these employees and their technology more resilient in the face of a natural disaster? Another important aspect to consider is the recent rise in cyber incidents. A decentralized staff has made many business networks more vulnerable.
About the author:
Scott Fouts is Vice President of global insurance brokerage Hub International’s Risk Services Division. He has 17 years of experience in occupational safety, health, and risk management consulting. He spent 15 years on the carrier side of the business providing risk management, safety, property, product liability, environmental, business continuity, fleet, claims, and industrial hygiene services.
Scott has experience with multiple types of businesses such as large fleet/transportation, manufacturing, construction, government, education, and financial services in order to obtain positive results in the changing of culture and the identification and mitigation of risk.
At Hub, Scott provides technical advice and training at all levels of safety and risk management. He also works with producers and account managers to protect the people, property, and efficiency of client operations. His original blog can be found here