Businesses Caught in the Middle of Crises

With so many crises in the Middle East and North Africa, an increasing number of businesses are being caught unprepared when it comes to disaster management. This China Post article by John Drake examines how companies are being caught unprepared in the middle of overnight crises. Drake is a senior risk consultant with AKE Group, a British security and risk analysis firm working in Iraq since before 2003 and throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

Drake offers the example of those living and working in a relatively crime-free Libya finding themselves in a war zone overnight. And recently, visitors in Tunisia, Egypt and Bahrain faced violence and turmoil at airports and in the streets. Businesses have even abandoned properties and worse, left employees stranded and without a way to evacuate.

One moderate success story in the above mess is Iraq. Through protests and violence, private companies are re-emerging. Why? According to Drake, the answer is simple: readiness.

“Companies operating in Iraq should have measures in place to mitigate risks and manage crises,” Drake wrote in the article. “In fact, companies anywhere should have crisis plans too. But it is no use having them in a document gathering dust on a shelf: in a crisis there will be little time for reading a book. Actions need to be swift and fluid, both by those in the country and those assisting them from outside, such as travel planners, security officers and even those liaising with employees’ families. The only way to ensure fluidity is training and regular practice for all involved.”

Evacuation plans must also be reviewed regularly, he said. And while many companies already have evacuation insurance, contracts should be checked periodically, especially in light of recent global instability. Some providers will only guarantee evacuation from the nearest “safe” airport, which could be hours away. In this case, an evacuation backup plan is necessary, including car or boat transport.

Drake emphasized that there is no one-size-fits-all plan for businesses, and there is no quick crisis management solution.

“… crisis management is a long-term process — but with immeasurable potential benefits,” Drake wrote. “The cost of a crisis can very quickly outweigh the cost of mitigating a crisis, while the impact on staff, assets and reputation can be irreparable.”

For more information about lessons learned by businesses caught in the middle of unexpected crises, read the full article: http://www.chinapost.com.tw/commentary/the-china-post/special-
to-the-china-post/2011/04/07/297813/p1/Companies-caught.htm