Training a Resilient Nation

So building a resilient nation doesn’t come from a top-down, government-only, command-and-control approach; it comes from a bottom-up approach; it comes from Americans connecting, collaborating; it comes from asking questions and finding new solutions. And it comes from all of us as a shared responsibility.” Secretary Janet Napolitano, 29 Sept 2009 [1]

Community & Regional Resilience Institute-CARRI is yet another very valuable organization , this time grass roots approach, to researching, educating, sharing, informing, and building consensus among communities across the country. I say ‘yet another’ because I realize there seems to be dozens and dozens of separate and unique groups and organizations all working on similar or sometimes tangent topics related to emergency planning, critical infrastructure protection, disaster risk reduction, community awareness and preparation for major crises and disasters.[2]

On the one hand, it’s very reassuring that such groups all exist. Many bring unique and valuable perspectives to the discussion, while others appear to provide what might be considered duplicative efforts. There are community CERT teams, Red Cross training, government based programs like Ready.gov (for families, businesses and communities), institutes of this’ and consortiums ‘of that’.

I wonder what value there would be from some type of consolidation of thoughts, a repository of ideas and suggestions. I don’t advocate eliminating the social network sharing across the globe, but at some point I would think that information overload becomes an issue. Just exactly where does a person or business start?

I propose multiple, connected repositories where information can be gathered and sorted but in done so in a way that does not stop, prohibit, or stifle the continued creativity and dialog  which must continue in order to respond to a dynamically changing world.

Reference

[1] Napolitano, Janet, 2009. Source accessed 5-10-10: http://www.dhs.gov/xabout/structure/gc_1232568253959.shtm

[2] Community & Regional Resilience Institute. Source accessed 5-10-10: http://www.resilientus.org/

Risk Reduction: Building Confidence with NGOs

The United Nations disaster risk reduction guidebook (2007) offers a detailed accounting of how a variety of relief and support groups are actively working to help reduce risk during and after a disaster. Much of the focus is on the young people, children, and others who are not able to typically take care of themselves without additional assistance. The common approach that each of these organization have taken is information dissemination via multiple formats, video comics for the children, informative radio messages broadcast over channels that target audiences would hear, hardcopy media, and live, in-person gatherings. It is all a wonderful example of the vital role that NGO’s (non-governmental organizations) play on the world stage when it comes to influencing government and other agencies to cooperate and take action. [1]

When a group of people has information and shares their opinions, concerns, and fears about what actions to take because of knowing information, confidence is built. Confidence in the community can grow because fear can be mitigated by citizens believing that they can take care of themselves in the face of devastating incidents.

Business continuity professionals can help catalyze the information flow in their companies in ways that help bolster the confidence of communities. For example BC professionals can provide:

  • support and champion a cause for risk reduction by speaking on behalf of the community at citizen meetings, local council activities, faith-based organizations, and other groups to build a sense of awareness;
  • collaborate with information resource exchanges like the National Voluntary Organizations Active in a Disaster –NVOAD [2]
  • family emergency guidebooks, information, what to do to prepare for emergencies or disasters
  • training to employees of villages, businesses, and municipalities; emergency response teams and citizen groups that are more prepared to recognize a crisis and take early action;

A large number of communities throughout the western civilization already provide such support and help in the form of websites, speaking engagements at civic meetings, and free brochures and information materials.

The larger challenge is what can be done in the developing countries. While some of these countries have been fortunate enough to receive United Nations programs on disaster risk reduction (Practical Action Bangladesh; Ecuador “Critical Video Analysis” of Volcanic Eruption Mitigation Project;

El Salvador- Children and Youth at the Centre of Disaster Risk Reduction; Haiti Community Members Design and Implement Information Campaigns; India Masons with a Disaster Risk Reduction Mission; India Disaster Micro-Insurance Scheme for Low-Income Groups, and many others around the world) [2] many others have not.

Even in the United States, there are still many rural areas without internet access or consistently reliable cell phone service. There may be dozens of miles to paved roads or municipal supported services. Building self-resilience as a community may be the only avenue to be ready and survive a disaster. Preparation in these communities  should include assessment of the people, resources, organizations, and the community at large, and develop plans to evacuate or shelter in place in the event of a local disaster. [3]

Reference

[1] United Nations. “Building Disaster Resilient Communities – Good Practices and Lessons Learned ‘Global Network of NGOs’ for Disaster Risk Reduction“. U N D P 2007

[2] “Welcome to National VOAD“. Source accessed 5-9-10: http://www.nvoad.org/

[3] The Community Resilience Project Team, “The Community Resilience Manual“. Making Waves Vol. 10 No. 4.

Community Support by Businesses During Disasters

It is important for all businesses to evaluate their impact on the community should they face a situation when then cannot continue providing their goods and services. The primary reason for this importance is that the citizens and community at large become dependent on these goods and services to survive. For example, when a day care center was obliterated in a tornado (Windsor, CO 2008), it forced parents to make other arrangements for the care of their children while the parents continued to work. Also, the employees may have become dependent on the company for additional benefits that are no longer or at least temporarily not available due to a crisis or disaster.

Larger companies routinely provide may adjunct benefits to employees that become commonly expected. Employers with over 500 employees may provide employee services well beyond what is necessary to get the job done-the company mission. Examples include wellness centers at headquarters, daycare provisions for the children of employees, employee assistance programs to help with mental and emotional support, discounts on insurance and other services, and clubs and teams for recreation and social outlets. On the other hand, smaller businesses (less than 20 employees) rarely have the funds or the means to offer such elaborate services to their employees, a fact that is commonly accepted in that setting. During a disaster, the community at large is often impacted and so are many companies. Those same adjunct benefits may not be available and employees will be directly impacted. [1]

Beyond the benefits and internal services, some businesses provide goods and services that are more of a necessity to the community. Examples include private schools, gasoline stations, grocery stores, hardware and building material centers, HVAC suppliers and contractors, etc. When these businesses are impacted by a community wide crisis a ripple reaction occurs. Not only are the employees directly impacted (cannot get to work and get paid), but everyday necessities may be unavailable for extended periods of time.

Because of the vital role that many businesses play in the community, encouraging community resilience is an important responsibility of those businesses. Many communities have found value in building cooperative programs that include bringing together the public and private sector organizations for the purpose of shared ownership of being prepared for possible disaster events. Even businesses that do not  provide vital services and products may, during a crisis, be able to offer vacant buildings, facilities, equipment, and shelter to support the relief effort.

To maximize the opportunities to be ready as a community, pre-planning is an important step. Prior knowledge of space, size, capacity, availability, and access and egress to locations can save time and money and expedite bringing vital resources to the community during and after a serious event. By participating in such readiness preparation, businesses can help strengthen resource-dependent communities.[2]

Reference

[1] Small Business Association Office of Advocacy. Source accessed 5-9-10: http://www.sba.gov/advo/stats/sbfaq.pdf

[2] The Terrorism and Disaster Center in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, Building Community Resilience for Children and Families, 2007, 26

Supply Chain Risk vs Benefit

One of the most interesting facets of supply chain management is the dichotomy of risk versus benefit analysis. The very same strategies that can help a company rein in costs, consolidation and single sourcing, can also be sources vulnerability that can inhibit business resumption following a major disruption or disaster.

Martin (2003) and Bosman (2006) offers good guidance on many of the issues facing global supply chain managers.

1. Reduce inventory through just in time methods:

The advantage is improved cash flow as a cost reduction of carrying less inventory on the books as assets prior to posting receivables. However, this may result in an inability to respond to a rapid increase in product need, thus missing market opportunity and revenue. The impact on risk management is a positive since if there is a site or location specific crisis, the loss of inventory is much smaller and therefore ability resume normal business operations is improved. [1]

2. Global sourcing minimizes risk and improves business continuity:

By broadening the base of suppliers (pre-approved and pre-priced), the loss or interruption of one supplier does not dramatically impact the overall production. When environmental catastrophe occurs, it would not be prudent for a business to have both primary suppliers of the same goods in the same geographic location. [2]

3. Visibility into the supply chain.

Risk management should be based on a high level of supply chain visibility, process alignment and understanding/cooperation amongst all supply chain partners.” [3]

That is, as long as there was accountability with the approved vendor list, then sub-vendors were not of concern. That approach is changing, according to Martin (2003) and more and more supply chain managers are setting stricter controls on the suppliers of the suppliers.

I recall managing a sourcing information team in the computer industry. Our job was to create a qualification standard to measure our suppliers and eliminate unreliable vendors. Through a series of metrics (quality, cost, delivery, and issue response) we rated each vendor. One of the questions involved proof that the vendor’s own suppliers were on-board and able to meet similar supply goals. Any vendor that could not also prove that it’s supplier could meet the goals was summarily dropped from the approved vendor list. This proved fortuitous since one of the business goals of the program was to reduce the number of vendors which we did from 900-330 within  8 months.  It did not occur to me at the time to consider business continuity implications.

Reference

[1] Christopher, Martin. 2003. “Creating Resilient Supply Chains: A Practical Guide“. Centre for Logistics & Supply Chain Management School of Management Cranfield University

[2] Bosman, Ruud. 2006. “The New Supply Chain Challenge: Risk Management in a Global Economy“.  FM Global. Source accessed 5-3-10: m http://www.fmglobal.com/pdfs/chainsupply.pdf

[3] Nelson, Lynnda ,2010. “Improving the Resilience of Your Supply Chain“, from Norwich MSBC Seminar 3 Lecture Week 9.

Employee Theft

Lenard (2010) suggests that there are three factors that [can] lead to employee theft

  • Motive
  • Rationalization
  • Opportunity [2]

The economy can cause people to do things they might not have considered before providing motive.  With that motive comes the rationalization that stealing from a big company won’t hurt the company; they may think that they deserve something more in return for their efforts, which may be more unnoticed in the fast-paced  world; employees may believe that  it’s not theft if they are using the property for both work and personal use.

What is being done to reduce employee theft? Some organizations are increasing company communications to employees to bring more awareness and set expectations about theft. Additional audits of company databases, tracking of phone use, particularly long-distance, and increased security measures at entrance/egress points are all ways that companies can and are trying to prevent and reduce theft.

To address criminal activities as a result of the state of the economy, 28% of all companies and 38% of large organizations point to increased communication with employees regarding the issue. Twenty percent are conducting additional audits (25% in large companies), and 19% of companies overall are paying more attention to background checks prior to the hiring of new employees.[2]

One primary reason why employee theft may be on the rise is the poor state of the economy. According to a recent report by the Institute of Corporate Productivity (i4cp report) “...27% of respondents in large companies — those with 10,000 or more employees — said crime in the workplace has risen during the current economic crisis, while 15% of all respondents, regardless of company size, reported it stayed the same the same.” [2]

References

[1] i4cp.Inc, 2008. “Study: Down Economy Sparks Rise in Workplace Theft”. Source accessed 4-26-10:  http://www.i4cp.com/news/2008/12/11/study-down-economy-sparks-rise-in-workplace-theft

[2] Lenard, George. 2010. “The Recession and Increasing Employee Theft: Understanding and Preventing Employee Theft”. George’s Employment Blog-Workplace News & Views, Edited by St. Louis Labor & Employment Lawyer George Lenard. Source accessed 4-26-10: http://www.employmentblawg.com/2008/the-recession-and-increasing-employee-theft-understanding-and-preventing-theft/

Safe and Secure Work Environment

A resilient organization is able to work through and recover from a major crisis or disaster in a positive manner. One of the many contributing factors which makes an organization more resilient is a safe and secure environment. When a company has taken steps to mitigate and reduce exposures to unsafe practices and to increase security, employees experience less stress, feel more comfortable and confident, and demonstrate improved productivity.

At a global high-tech firm, the most visible sign of security is badge access to facilities. From an IT perspective, random password generators are used to allow individuals to access any workstation at any facility in any country.

On a business trip to Stockholm, we encountered a breach in security which impacted the productivity of our business plan for that week. The night before we arrived unknown people broke into the main office, did some damage, and the office became a crime scene. For those of us that travel often we know that just being in a different country, navigating the language and getting around town, are challenging enough. This event raised our level of stress about being present and trying to work around the scene. This was not a major crisis in any way, however, it did cause some consternation and impacted our goals for that trip.

Looking at the workplace, most company campuses have a great deal of focus and programs in place that support the employees. Some of these include ergonomic standards, security force patrolling the grounds and buildings, surveillance cameras, adherence to OSHA guidelines, full background checks and drug screening for new hires, environmental health and safety programs that monitor interior building air systems, and many more.  The result is that the work environment feels open and safe.

Reference

Creating a Safe and Secure Workplace“. hrthatworks.com. 2007

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