Prepare for “Compounding” Disasters
Despite signs the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic is in past, organizations must still cope with the fallout. What made things worse was an increase in the number of severe weather events across North America, a trend expected to continue.
That has made preparation for “compounding disaster events” — when two or more catastrophic events happen at once, like a major hurricane during a pandemic — important for business owners and management.
Compound disaster events result in enormously complex response and recovery challenges, as each disaster amplifies the effect of the other. There was no playbook on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, but now that many organizations suffered the twin blows of the pandemic and a weather disaster, it’s important to prepare for the compounding impact of simultaneous disasters.
Remote, decentralized work forces, financial constraints and supply chain disruption are just a few variables to consider in preparedness planning. As businesses move into the next phase of recovery and some workers start returning to the office, it’s a good time to assess and update preparedness plans.
The following checklist can help organizations reevaluate and update preparedness plans ahead of extreme weather events.
- Be prepared to act. Identify disaster timing when possible and activate contingency plans sooner. With foreseeable events like hurricanes and wildfires, have plans to monitor and respond quickly. Don’t wait until the last minute to evacuate or close a business in an area with a history of fires or storms. For non-foreseeable events such as earthquakes and tornados, be as prepared as possible ahead of time. COVID-19 presents new variables in disaster response that will affect preparation planning. Anticipate needing more time to prepare, respond and recover.
- Prepare, review and regularly update internal emergency communication plans. If offices are partially open or some people are working remotely, crisis management teams will need to adjust communication plans. Ensure accurate primary and secondary contact information, addresses and emergency contacts for all employees. Reassess existing emergency communications strategies to account for decentralized staff. Account for how working at home will affect the crisis management team: It may need a new structure and new ways to communicate during a natural disaster.
- Prepare for supply chain disruption. COVID-19 severely disrupted supply chains. A natural disaster on top of supply chain woes will turn a bad situation much worse. Identify and make plans with alternate suppliers, identify alternative distribution paths and determine how a disaster will degrade an already distressed supply chain. Existing disaster and business continuity plans can act as a springboard to developing solutions to the new challenges.
- Prepare for longer disruption. Anticipate and prepare for extended downtimes and longer wait for restoring services. Emergency services have been stretched thin during the pandemic with crews operating under COVID-19 protections. Test existing backup systems like generators to ensure they’re in proper working order; ensure disaster kits are fully stocked with food, water and other essentials.
- Keep alert with alerts. Know where to get weather alerts and community notifications from multiple, reliable sources. Closely monitoring critical information from multiple sources is critical in a compounding natural disaster and pandemic response environment. Sign up for and monitor real-time alerts from federal and global agencies and authorities, as well as local emergency services, utilities and local news.
- Understand your coverage. Talk to your broker and risk services specialist ahead of the upcoming season to determine your coverage, policy limits and exclusions. Understanding your coverage will not only expedite your disaster planning but will help you make critical decisions during compounding disasters.