THE SIGNIFICANCE OF TRANSPORTATION IN EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT
Transportation can be described as the critical infrastructure for communities and their economies. Routes and channels, where goods and services are transported, are often coined as the arteries of a community. And it is descriptions like these that really hit home when disasters strike. The world has witnessed far too many disasters and now recognizes that the lack of roads, railroads and airports can incapacitate a community and bankrupt businesses. According to the World Economic Forum report in 2012, more than 90% of those surveyed express that supply chain and transport risk management have become a priority for their organization over the last five years.
Anything from widespread flooding to extensive winds can interrupt transport systems. Trees blown over by storms can cause disruption and damage to major routes for a number of days — sometimes even weeks or months. High winds and tidal surges can slow marine vessels and impact port operations. Snow and freezing conditions can debilitate airports.
The Business Continuity Institute reported that 57% of respondents whom they surveyed expressed concern about extreme weather conditions on their businesses. When considering supply chain and personnel resources, it is hard to imagine that severe weather is not a risk to more organizations. Evidence of disruptions from real events include the ice storm that hit parts of eastern Canada the last week of February 2016, where more than 140 flights were reported cancelled at Toronto`s Pearson International Airport. The August 29, 2015 windstorm in Vancouver caused power outages and fallen trees, creating hazardous driving conditions; and in a severe case, the recent cyclone that hit Fiji, where a trail of destruction damaged roads and wharves. Any of these disasters can disrupt your business operations and disable the flow of goods and supplies.
In addition to extreme weather conditions and power outages, employee strikes are also a major risk factor to the flow of goods. This was apparent in the 2015 strike at Port Metro Vancouver where, according to an article by CBC News, 1,200 truck drivers walked off the job leaving hundreds of millions of dollars worth of cargo stranded at terminals.
The significance of transportation in emergency and continuity management is critical. Any disturbance to transportation systems have the highest impact on your business when staff are confined in one place, business or home — or, if the shipping of key supplies are delayed. Based on the findings put forward on the World Economic Forum report, worldwide economic losses from natural disasters in 2010 totaled to a whopping US$194 billion. Your reliance on transportation and the impact of prolonged disruption to your business needs to be addressed in your continuity plan.
So, what can you do as an organization to equip and prepare for interruptions like these?
Here we explore key areas regarding the reliance on transportation that need to be included when conducting your business impact analysis, so that you can limit interruption and maintain continuity of your critical business services.
- Extreme weather contingency plans — consider and include potential impacts of transportation delays and disruptions to your staff in the delivery of essential supplies and for couriering key documents.
- Identify alternative measures in advance — minimize interruptions to your business. Consider how the ability to communicate impacts your clients and customers in situations where transportation infrastructure is impacted.
- Transportation routes — be aware of the level of use and reliance on certain transportation routes, the availability of suitable alternative routes and the importance of specific routes that are essential for carrying out your business operations or services for your community.
It is easier to explain a delay in service, or lack of delivered products when the impacts of the weather are all over the news, than if the airport in the East, or the port in Fiji has interrupted your supply chain. Planning in advance will allow you to generate contingency plans should there be no alternative routes for critical goods and services. Identifying alternative routes and means of transportation need to be considered to ensure that your personnel can get to work, your supplies are delivered and the delivery of your goods to other businesses are completed in a timely manner or with the least interruption.
By considering the above key areas, you can ensure that your organization is resilient in the face of transportation disruptions. Your organization’s ability to withstand the impacts of extreme weather conditions, disaster, or disruption to critical infrastructure, and to recover promptly from its effects will be tested — it’s just a matter of when. By planning for transportation interruptions, your business can better mitigate and navigate the direct impacts of these disruptions.
Are you confident that your organization’s emergency and continuity program considers the impact transportation can have on your business? Let’s connect, we’re here to help.