8 steps to make disasters everybody’s business (part 1)
Like it or not, disasters are here to stay. If the Covid-19 pandemic has made one thing clear, it’s that no business is completely protected from disasters.
As for dealing with one disaster at a time? Not going to happen.
This pandemic followed hot on the heels of a horror summer of bushfires in Australia. Many businesses were barely open when they were forced to close again because of Covid.
Here in Stage 4 lockdown in Melbourne, I believe more than ever that we need to do disasters differently.
But what do I mean by that?
What does that really mean for a business owner or employee?
Disaster resilience is the responsibility of everyone
Firstly, I know what you’re thinking.
What’s disaster resilience got to do with me? Short answer – everything.
That’s right, disaster resilience isn’t a neat little package in the CEO or Health and Safety officer’s job description.
The businesses that do disaster resilience best are the businesses that have made this everyone’s problem. #doingdisastersdifferently
And we’re not just talking about big businesses. If you’re just a small family-run business or even a solopreneur, it’s just as important. In some cases even more important that you make disaster resilience part of your business as usual. We do this by linking disaster to your business strategy and plans, as well as your culture, values and purpose.
In this blog, I’m going to share some practical tips for making disaster’s everyone’s responsibility. I’ll also share some examples from companies that have done this well.
What you do BEFORE the disaster is really, really important
This is more than just focusing on what happens when disaster strikes.
We need to look at how we can prevent disasters happening in the first place. And then how we can prepare to respond well when they do. We need to learn to talk about what we are doing to ready ourselves and our businesses. And to promote our plans to make sure everyone knows what their role is when they are needed most.
Finally, it’s about protecting our people, our business and our community during a disaster and as we recover.
How well do you know your business?
The first step in disaster resilience is really understanding your business.
What disasters could affect your operations? What things would stop you from operating? Would you know what to do if you heard a flood or fire was on its way? Do you know how a power outage would affect your operations?
Look at your customer chains and your supply chains. If you can identify the critical elements you need to keep doing business, you’ve started building a resilient business.
Action step 1
- List the disasters that could affect your business and how you would respond.
- List the elements that are critical to your operations.
If you have a team, do this exercise as a group or get together to discuss your answers.
Can you reduce your risks?
Once you understand the critical touch points of your business, you can look at the risks associated with those parts of your business.
Would a bushfire impact you? A pandemic? A power outage?
Knowing your risks helps you identify the vulnerable areas of your business.
Businesses that understand risks are more inclined to reduce them. How can you reduce the impact of disasters on your business? How can you mitigate and prevent direct or indirect impacts and consequences?
Action step 2
- List the direct risks to your critical business operations
- List the indirect risks to your critical business operations
- List ways you can mitigate or reduce the threat of each risk
What would you do in a disaster?
The first two steps are focused on prevention. But we all know that it’s not possible to prevent every disaster. But with the insights from these first 2 steps, you’ll be better placed to prepare. And that starts with planning your response.
And you need more than just a Plan A. You absolutely need a Plan B too.
Being prepared is a crucial step in building disaster resilience.
Planning your response should be a whole of team effort. This is a really important step. When a disaster happens, your mind will be racing as you try to work out what to do. If you have a (written) plan that your whole team understands, you’ll all know exactly what to do.
Action step 3
- Do you have a disaster plan? When was it last updated?
Who is in your network?
Disasters can strike a single business or they might affect a whole town or region. If you’re the unlucky one, you’ll want to know can help you get back on your feet. Are there other businesses that can provide essential tools or a place to operate in the event of a disaster?
In the event of a widespread disaster, is there is coordinated local response? Who are the local decision makers? Can you share resources?
Developing relationships to support readiness, response and recovery is a crucial step for every business.
That includes internally with your employees but also across other groups like your suppliers, customers, industry associations, place-based networks and even your competitors!
US-based social impact academic Daniel Aldrich has evidence-based research that connected communities are more resilient than affluent communities. And this is relevant to businesses too.
Action step 4
- List all the local businesses or organisations in your local network. Are there people missing?
- Who is in your internal network?
- Could you organise to get together (in person or via a video call) to discuss your disaster plans?
It’s never been more important to have strong disaster resilience plans to protect your people, property and profits.
And regardless of your size, it can seem like an overwhelming task.
But it doesn’t have to be. If you work through the first 4 of our 8 action steps above, you’re well on your way to building a disaster resilient business.
Over to you
If you liked this article, please share. If you’d like to share the things you’re doing to make your business more resilient, we’d love to hear from you.
Renae Hanvin is the founder of corporate2community and a leader in private sector contribution before, during and after disasters. Most known for ‘Doing Disasters Differently’, Renae helps corporates, SMEs, governments and communities build disaster resilience to all-hazards. corporate2community’s Resilient Ready™ Corporates and Resilient Ready™ Small Biz programs facilitate resilience across businesses of all sizes.