South-Western - Management  
Preparing Employees for Disasters; Catastrophe Response Plans Should Not Overlook 'People Risks'
Topic Planning
Key Words Human impact preparedness, benchmarking, planning
News Story

Recent natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina have demonstrated the dangers of not having a well thought-out plan for potential natural disasters and catastrophes. One of the most overlooked and underappreciated factors when it comes to preparing for business interruption risks is the impact the disaster will have on employees. A recent benchmarking study conducted by Continuity insights magazine and KPMG Advisory Services found that 35% of respondents identified "people issues" as the weakest link in their recovery plans. "Technology risks" were identified as the weakest by only 19%.

To help prepare for potential people risks, companies need to consider human impact preparedness, which is based on the cycle of disaster and how people respond during different phases of a catastrophe. Many companies just assume it will take time to recover from a disaster. However, the human impact is not necessarily a linear process. After an initial coping phase, people typically enter a period of disillusionment which can last for weeks, months, or even years. It is during this stage that companies will struggle with staff motivation, retention, and productivity.

Human impact preparedness attempts to address and plan for the natural coping process by including three components: organizational assessment, human impact planning, and exercises and training.

Organizational assessment should be comprehensive and should encompass all levels in the organization. The assessment should cover a review of existing plans, evaluation of existing resources and partnerships, and communication and information flow. Individuals should also be assessed for their ability to cope with crisis.

Human impact planning organizes the policies and procedures that might already exist in a company but are typically scattered across departments. These processes are then centralized and organized

Finally, exercises and training should be developed to enhance levels of preparedness. They should be experience-based exercises such as simulations and include periodic reviews and refresher courses. Being prepared really is the best strategy.

Questions
1.

Define human impact preparedness.

2.

The article mentions a benchmarking study. What is benchmarking and how is benchmarking an important part of the planning process?

3.

The article mentions that more respondents in the study felt that people issues were the weaker link in their planning process than those who thought technology was the weakest link. Why do planners spend so much time planning for technology interventions in case of disaster but little time planning for the potential people issues? What can be done?

Source "Preparing Employees for Disasters; Catastrophe Response Plans Should Not Overlook 'People Risks'," Business Insurance, June 5, 2006, v40 i23 p10.
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