In disaster-prone Asia Pacific, preparation is key

March 23, 2012 / By

“The Wise Rabbit sat under a tree and pondered about life in general. ‘The world is full of difficulties and dangers. First, there are natural catastrophes such as earthquakes and landslides and storms. Second, there is always the danger of famine, of shortage of food and water. Third, there is the danger of thieves and robbers.’ He then remembered an important appointment and went away.” – Maung Htin Aung, Burmese folktales, 1948

APAC has endured extensive natural disasters historically, and those in recent years have devastated surrounding communities, severely impacted companies’ operations and negatively affected national GDPs.

Drawing on the collective experience of 200 Jones Lang LaSalle client sites affected in Christchurch, Brisbane, Queensland, Japan and Thailand in 2011, Surviving the Disaster Zone: Lessons Learned in Asia Pacific explores what has worked well in preparation for and during a crisis. The author, Rob Timmermans, highlights the best practice during each phase of an incident:

  • Preparation. When a hazard warning is issued in advance, convene a crisis management team and consider what can be done to minimise the impact, for example taping up windows, sandbagging or ordering portable generators. Involve service providers early to ensure critical resources are on standby when needed.
  • Event. During the down time when all preparations have been made and yet people are not able to commence recovery efforts, focus should be on people’s safety and managing the physical and psychological impacts on staff. Appoint a single point of contact for staff and provide timely updates using all available communications channels (including social media).
  • Recovery. In the aftermath of the event, the priority is to ensure facilities are safe and/or to identify short-term alternative space. Nominate the corporate real estate team as the ‘authority’ in declaring a facility safe to occupy following a disaster.

Beyond these tactical learnings, it is critical to have strong business continuity plans (BCPs) in place. Rob advises to:

  • Incorporate standard management practices into the plans as employees will be far better equipped to make swift and relevant decisions if they are in line with their day-to-day responsibilities.
  • Look beyond traditional stand-alone BCPs and integrate off-site options such as the ability for staff to effectively work from their homes using broadband technology, allowing many functions to be executed without interruption.
  • Opt for geography-specific approaches for back-up sites. Natural disasters have an impact will beyond the immediate surroundings so it is important to consider inter-state or offshore location options for back-up operations.
  • chedule BCP trials when some key members of the crisis team are not available, as will most likely be the case when a crisis hits. This will demonstrate wether the support network is capable or flawed.
  • Build pre-emptive BCP relationships between CRE teams and service partners or between landlords and tenants, to streamline negotiations and deployment of resources during time-critical periods.

Fortunately, unlike the not-so-wise rabbit in my introduction, firms across the region are now proactively reviewing BCPs, a task no longer seen as a mere box-ticking exercise.


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