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StrategyDriven Risk Management Article

Emergencies That Can Bring Your Business To A Halt

It is a terrifying moment when you realise that your business is about to suffer some kind of a problem. Businesses face all sorts of problems every day, and most of them are dealt with pretty easily and swiftly. But then there are those larger problems, the ones which can bring everything to a sudden stop. When you run the risk of this happening, it can be remarkably worrying. To avoid this, you need to feel protected – and the best way to do that is to be prepared for all eventualities. To that end, let’s take a look at some of the most common and most worrying emergencies that any business might well face in the future.

StrategyDriven Risk Management Article
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System Downtime

If you have been in business for longer than a week, you will know first-hand how important it is to keep your systems going strong. You probably rely quite heavily on technology – most businesses do these days. Clearly, if anything happens on that front, it can spell disaster for the near future of your business. You could be facing data loss, which might in turn mean a sudden downturn of business. Or perhaps some of your automated systems will fail, resulting in lost profits and disappointed customers. Whatever the result, having network downtime is never going to be something you invite.

If this happens, try not to panic. It helps if you have set up some kind of a back-up system beforehand. But if you haven’t, get the professionals in and you should be up and running again in no time. This can be worrying and damaging, but it is always fixable.

Failed Utilities

The workplace itself can often be home to a number of worrying and dramatic emergencies. These are often possible to prevent by following certain regulations, but even then you never quite know what will happen or when. Utilities in particular can be a worrying source of danger, and you will want to make sure you pay close attention to them in your office. These dangers can come in a number of forms. It might be that a plumbing problem has led to a severe leak, in which case calling the likes of ABC Home & Commercial Services is going to be a good move. Or maybe you need to call an electrician to fix a faulty fuse box which has blown out some of your computers. Whatever it is, these are all situations which you want to fix the moment they arise. Nothing good will come of leaving such problems to worsen, so get on it as soon as possible.

StrategyDriven Risk Management Article
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Fire

If you have ever been in a workplace when a fire breaks out, you will know well that it can be truly terrifying. At such a time, your most important thought will not be the business itself, but the people. And that’s just how it should be – if a fire breaks out in your office, you need to evacuate everyone first and foremost. However, you will also be well aware that a fire can cause your business a lot of damage too. Clearly, it is best to do everything you can to prevent it happening in the first place.

This is why standard fire safety practices are so important. Following them will drastically reduce the likelihood of a fire breaking out in your workplace. But as well as that, you need to know what you should do if it happens anyway. Training your employees is the number one matter of concern here. They need to be able to get to safety as quickly as possible, so make sure that they have the necessary skills to do so. It is then a matter of practicing routinely, with fire drills at different and random times of the year. This ensures that everyone will act as well as possible if it should actually occur – and that will mean a greater peace of mind.

StrategyDriven Risk Management Article
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Fire is by far one of the most worrisome emergencies that any business can face. Nonetheless, it is surprisingly common, and you absolutely cannot run the risk of not preparing for it. The more you know about what to do in case of a fire, the more likely it is that you can properly prepare and protect your business should it ever happen.

Keeping your business safe and secure means knowing the worst that can happen and being prepared for it, while still hoping for the best. Get this balance right, and you are on track for a bright future.

StrategyDriven Podcast Series

StrategyDriven Editorial Perspective – Taking Decisive Action

History is replete with crisis so much so that their occurrence can be counted upon with some certainty. Crisis themselves create uncertainty but it is the response or lack of response to a crisis that creates the unnecessary uncertainty that often ripples through the marketplace, government agencies, and society.


”A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.”

Rahm Emanuel
Chief of Staff to President Barack Obama


As suggested by Rahm Emanuel, those individuals and organizations responding well to a crisis garner acclaim. Likewise, those who do not respond decisively are scorned.

Poor crisis management by British Petroleum (BP) and the U.S. government in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is evident by the ongoing nature of this catastrophe and the devastation it has caused the people and property of the Gulf States. Examining this crisis reveals several inadequacies in the disaster response:

  • Delay in executing the initial event response – 9 days (time until Obama Administration acknowledges the “spill [is] of national significance”)1
  • Failure to apply all appropriate resources to the event response – ongoing refusal of the Obama Administration to lift the Jones Act restrictions and allow international skimming ships to aid in the oil spill clean-up2, 3
  • Delay in defining and executing on obvious goals – 12 days to begin drilling a relief well to stop the oil spill4
  • Faulted decision-making process – inaccurate assessment of the spill conditions, namely the late recognition of the significance/volume of oil leaking5, 6
  • Lack of leadership and coordination – initial and ongoing confusion between BP and U.S. government authorities as to which organization was in charge of the event response efforts7

Some would argue that not every event can be anticipated and that the Deepwater Horizon accident was one such incident. We would not argue that point. It is unreasonable to expect that every situation and circumstance be fully anticipated and planned for not to mention that such an effort would be cost prohibited. However, when unanticipated circumstances arise leaders must be prepared to act decisively based on their and their organization’s values and beliefs and a set of core emergency response principles. Some of these include:

Values and Beliefs

  • protecting of human life
  • protecting the environment
  • protecting property
  • acting ethically and with integrity
  • minimizing the impact of the event on all parties involved and effected

Core Emergency Response Principles

  • recognizing that an emergency condition exists
  • identifying the leader and the roles and responsibilities for all participants or groups of participants
  • accurately defining the problem in both quantitative and qualitative terms including potential future challenges based on other probable and impactful events
  • identifying all resources (personnel, materials, and equipment) available to support the event response effort
  • defining the desired outcomes consistent with the organization’s core values and goals
  • identifying the several options that will enable achievement of the desired outcomes; including risks (short and long term), costs, and benefits
  • prioritizing options and selecting the optimal solution
  • communicating and executing the chosen solution including contingency measures should the primary approach be ineffective
  • continuously monitoring and adjusting the chosen approach as necessary

The response to the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 and the Tylenol Crisis in 1982 serve as positive examples of values-based emergency responses following core response principles in the absence of pre-defined procedures. The decisive actions by Rudy Giuliani, the then mayor of New York City and the Johnson & Johnson executive team instilled confidence, minimized follow-on consequences, and expedited restoration from their respective event.

StrategyDriven Recommended Practices

For the past several weeks, we have discussed methods for identifying and preparing responses to probable events. The following recommended actions will help ensure leaders are prepared to response to unanticipated events in a manner that minimizes adverse consequences.

Unanticipated Event Response

  1. Clearly define organizational values understood and embodied by all organization members – An organization’s values serve as beacon against which all actions should be aligned and evaluated. Having a clearly defined set of documented organizational values provides responding executives and managers with a quantifiable basis against which to identify and evaluate response actions.
  2. Establish a commitment to adhering to the organization’s values over cost – Defined values are of little value unless organizational executives, managers, supervisors, and employees are willing to act on them even if doing so incurs additional cost. Gaining such commitment requires ongoing reinforcement to the principle of values over cost by all executives and managers during normal operations and event response periods.
  3. Define and train on a decision making and unanticipated event response processes – Individuals understanding and committed to the organization’s values may still not be capable of translating these into the needed timely response actions without decision-making and event response training. Such training should be periodically provided to all individuals at all levels of the organization.

Final Thought…

Decisive leaders are not impulsive. Quite the contrary, impulsive acts often diminish emergency response effectiveness. Decisive actions are timely, well thought out and consistent with the individual and organization’s values and beliefs. These actions follow the core emergency response principles. Their logic and structure are easily recognized, understood, and accepted by those implementing them, the public, and other interested stakeholders.

Final Request…

StrategyDriven Editorial Perspective PodcastThe strength in our community grows with the additional insights brought by our expanding member base. Please consider rating us and sharing your perspectives regarding the StrategyDriven Editorial Perspective podcast on iTunes by clicking here. Sharing your thoughts improves our ranking and helps us attract new listeners which, in turn, helps us grow our community.

Thank you again for listening to the StrategyDriven Editorial Perspective podcast!

Sources

  1. “Timeline of Gulf oil spill, government response,” The Associated Press, The Boston Globe, May 8, 2010 (http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2010/05/08/timeline_of_gulf_oil_spill_government_response/?page=1)
  2. “U.S. not accepting foreign help on oil spill,” Josh Rogin, Foreign Policy, May 6, 2010 (http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/05/06/us_not_accepting_foreign_help_on_oil_spill)
  3. “Jones Act Slowing Oil Spill Cleanup?” Brian Wilson, Fox News, June 10, 2010 (http://liveshots.blogs.foxnews.com/2010/06/10/jones-act-slowing-oil-spill-cleanup/)
  4. “Spill relief well draws scrutiny, fears,” Greg Bluestein and Jason Dearen, Associated Press, June 13, 2010 (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/37674027/ns/disaster_in_the_gulf)
  5. “Timeline of Gulf oil spill, government response,” The Associated Press, The Boston Globe, May 8, 2010 (http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2010/05/08/timeline_of_gulf_oil_spill_government_response/?page=1)
  6. “Size of Oil Spill Underestimated, Scientists Say,” Justin Gillis, The New York Times, May 13, 2010 (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/14/us/14oil.html)
  7. “Gulf Cleanup of BP Oil Foiled by Leadership Confusion (Update1),” Jim Efstathiou Jr., Bloomberg Businessweek, June 10, 2010 (http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-06-10/gulf-cleanup-of-bp-oil-foiled-by-leadership-confusion-update1-.html)
StrategyDriven Podcast Series

StrategyDriven Editorial Perspective – Creating Event Certainty, part 3 of 3

No event response plan is even worth the paper it is written on if not promptly and properly executed. And while an estimated 20,000 to 40,000 barrels (840,000 to 1,680,000 gallons) of oil gush into the Gulf of Mexico per day1, more questions arise about the appropriateness of British Petroleum (BP) and the U.S. government’s response to the crisis.


“A good plan violently executed right now is far better than a perfect plan executed next week.”

George S. Patton (1885 – 1945)
General, United States Army


 
Appropriateness of Action

After persistent questioning by the U.S. State Department Press Corp, it came to light in early May that while at least thirteen countries have offered to assist in the Gulf of Mexico cleanup the U.S. government is not accepting most of this support. The countries named by the U.S. State Department as offering support include: Canada, Croatia, France, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Republic of Korea, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. The U.S. State Department notice characterized the assistance as being offers that “include experts in various aspects of oil spill impacts, research and technical expertise, booms, chemical oil dispersants, oil pumps, skimmers, and wildlife treatment.” However, this notice also stated, “While there is no need right now that the U.S. cannot meet, the U.S. Coast Guard is assessing these offers of assistance to see if there will be something which we will need in the near future.”2

Over a month later, Fox News reported that the U.S. government has accepted some foreign assistance including:

  • Canada’s offer of 3,000 meters of containment boom
  • Three sets of COSEZ sweeping arms from the Dutch
  • Mexico’s offer of two skimmers and 4,200 meters of boom
  • Norway’s offer of 8 skimming systems

More important is what is not in use, namely the world’s best oil skimming ships from Belgium, the Netherlands, and Norway because of their non-compliance with the Jones Act, a 1920’s protectionist law aimed at benefiting labor unions. While the George W. Bush Administration waived the Jones Act requirements in order to accept foreign assistance following the Hurricane Katrina Disaster, the Obama Administration has indicated no such intentions in dealing with the BP Oil Spill Crisis.3

Failure of the Obama Administration to waive the Jones Act requirements and welcome Belgian, Dutch, and Norwegian oil skimmers to defend the shores of the United States is inexcusable. Compounding this issue is the lack of command leadership being exercised by both President Obama and Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen. Admiral Allen is quoted as saying, “if it gets to the point where a Jones Act waiver is required, we’re willing to do that too. Nobody has come to me with a request for a Jones Act waiver.” As the Incident Commander, Admiral Allen is solely responsible to make the decision on whether or not to make a waiver request. He is responsible to exercise command judgment, not wait on a subordinate or outsider to provide him with his opinion or direction. With the oil leak ongoing, an estimated 39,525,000+ gallons of oil leaked4, 840,000 to 1,680,000 gallons more oil entering the Gulf daily, failing oil booms5, a marginally effective BP well cap6, and only 320,000 gallons of oil skimmed7 add up to the common sense solution that President Obama and Admiral Allen need to act now to waive the Jones Act and invite our global allies to assist with the Gulf Oil Spill recovery effort.

As with almost all events, these inappropriate actions only serve to intensify the severity of damage being done to the people, businesses, and environment of the Gulf States.

Timeliness of Action

Timely actions mitigate events and prevent the promulgation of adverse effects. In countries such as the Netherlands, oil companies are given 12 hours to appropriately respond to an oil leak before the government takes over and the oil company presented ‘the bill.’ This, however, is not the case in the United States where BP’s response has, in several cases, been inexcusably slow8 with no or delayed government intervention.

From the beginning, BP and the U.S government were slow to respond to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It was 12 days before the relief well, cited by many experts as the key to stopping the leak, was started.9 And once one well capping method is deemed unsuccessful, it is several days before the next method is tried.10 Clearly, BP nor the U.S. government appears to have been fully prepared to implement their oil spill response plans and once implemented are doing so far too slowly.

StrategyDriven Recommended Practices

Risk response relies as much upon the proper and timely execution of the mitigation plan as it does development of the plan itself. All too often, executives and managers become penny wise and pound foolish; focusing too much on the cost of the event’s mitigation rather than on mitigating the event itself. Those falling prey to this temptation typically find their organization’s mitigation timeline extended and their costs soaring.

Whether responding to an isolated incident such as the unexpected resignation of a key resource or a global impacting event like the BP Oil Spill, StrategyDriven recommends executives and managers consider the following event response principles:

Event Response

  1. Promptly execute the in place risk mitigation, transference, and avoidance mechanisms. The in place plan, conceived by the most experienced minds in a stress-free environment, cannot help alleviate the event’s negative impacts if not implemented – timely execution is critical to curtailing the damage. While executing the plan, allow flexibility to address unique circumstances.
  2. Always be looking ahead… assume failure and prepare to perform the next several response actions in parallel. Transitioning from one phase of a plan to another takes precious time. Assuming that current efforts will fail and prestaging the personnel, procedures, materials, components, tools, and equipment to executive several subsequent phases eliminates this wait time thereby accelerating the event response efforts which in-turn help reduce the overall negative impact incurred.
  3. Accept outside assistance as appropriate. Some outside assistance may be truly unnecessary, inappropriate, and distracting. However, legitimate offers of assistance from knowledgeable and experienced persons should be accepted so to shorten the response and recovery time frame and/or mitigate negative outcomes.
  4. Communicate constructively and proactively with the press, public, and stakeholders. People fear the unknown; and during times of crisis, the unknown creates vast unnecessary uncertainty. Remaining as transparent as possible by openly communicating known event conditions and mitigating actions as clearly and accurately as possible helps reduce the unknown and generates good will.
  5. Constructively assist in the incident recovery – even if the event is not your direct responsibility. As responsible members of the broader local and global community, we should reasonably assist others in the mitigation of significant events if we possess the talent, knowledge, methods, and/or equipment to do so.
  6. Seek legal counsel. We live in a litigious society. Whether the event is or is not your organization’s responsibility, it is often prudent to seek legal counsel to ensure your and your company’s rights are protected.

Final Thoughts…

For four weeks, we have commented on the failures of British Petroleum and the U.S. government in responding to the Gulf Oil Spill. Based on this example, we have recommended several actions be taken by leaders to ready their organization and better respond to significant events should they occur.

Johnson & Johnson’s handling of The Tylenol Crisis of 1982 stands as an example of effective crisis management. For a brief review of that event and Johnson & Johnson’s response, we suggest reading: The Tylenol Crisis, 1982 by Effective Crisis Management.11

StrategyDriven wishes to thank the people and companies of Canada, Croatia, France, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Republic of Korea, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom for their offers of assistance in the BP Oil Spill recovery effort. We also extend our appreciation to the men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard and the Gulf States for their effort to contain the spill and protect our country from its harmful impacts.

Final Request…

StrategyDriven Editorial Perspective PodcastThe strength in our community grows with the additional insights brought by our expanding member base. Please consider rating us and sharing your perspectives regarding the StrategyDriven Editorial Perspective podcast on iTunes by clicking here. Sharing your thoughts improves our ranking and helps us attract new listeners which, in turn, helps us grow our community.

Thank you again for listening to the StrategyDriven Editorial Perspective podcast!

Sources

  1. “BP Oil Leak Rate Called 8 Times Worse Than Earlier Estimate,” David Muir and Bradley Blackburn, ABC News, June 10, 2010 (http://abcnews.go.com/WN/Media/bp-oil-spill-federal-panel-flow-rate-worse/story?id=10881441)
  2. “U.S. not accepting foreign help on oil spill,” Josh Rogin, Foreign Policy, May 6, 2010 (http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/05/06/us_not_accepting_foreign_help_on_oil_spill)
  3. “Jones Act Slowing Oil Spill Cleanup?” Brian Wilson, Fox News, June 10, 2010 (http://liveshots.blogs.foxnews.com/2010/06/10/jones-act-slowing-oil-spill-cleanup/)
  4. “How Much Oil Has Leaked Into the Gulf of Mexico?” Chris Amico, PBS, May 9, 2010 (http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2010/05/how-much-oil-has-spilled-in-the-gulf-of-mexico.html)
  5. “Containment boom effort comes up short in BP oil spill,” Peter Grier, The Christian Science Monitor, June 11, 2010 (http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2010/0611/Containment-boom-effort-comes-up-short-in-BP-oil-spill)
  6. “BP Oil Spill Cap helps slow Gulf oil spill: Will it work?” Cheryl Phillips, Examiner, June 6, 2010 (http://www.examiner.com/x-22397-Providence-Business-Headlines-Examiner~y2010m6d6-BP-Oil-Spill-Cap-helps-slow-Gulf-oil-spill)
  7. “Containment boom effort comes up short in BP oil spill,” Peter Grier, The Christian Science Monitor, June 11, 2010 (http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2010/0611/Containment-boom-effort-comes-up-short-in-BP-oil-spill)
  8. “Steffy: U.S. and BP slow to accept Dutch expertise,” Loren Steffy, Houston Chronicle, June 8, 2010 (http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/business/steffy/7043272.html)
  9. “Spill relief well draws scrutiny, fears,” Greg Bluestein and Jason Dearen, Associated Press, June 13, 2010 (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/37674027/ns/disaster_in_the_gulf)
  10. “’Top kill’ fails to stop Gulf oil leak, new plan readied,” The Economic Times, May 30, 2010 (http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/5990458.cms)
  11. “The Tylenol Crisis, 1982,” Effective Crisis Management, 2002 (http://iml.jou.ufl.edu/projects/Fall02/Susi/tylenol.htm)