As recent events have shown us, emergency preparedness can often be the difference between life and death. Over the past few months alone, we have witnessed the utter devastation caused by multiple natural disasters in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Texas and California. The question that comes to mind is: what happens to your employees who are traveling for business when an incident occurs?
The coordination of response and recovery efforts is one of the most complex situations an organization can face and reiterates the critical importance of being prepared and having a plan in place. GBTA Risk Committee Chair Erin Wilk was recently joined by iJET International's George Taylor and Carnival Corporation & plc's Nina Markowitz, two industry leaders who were involved in response and evacuation efforts during the recent hurricanes.
After Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria hit, destruction was evident everywhere. Homes were destroyed, airports ceased to function, communications were restricted, and finite government resources were quickly depleted. Navigating to impacted areas for relief efforts always proves to be a challenge because of the damaged infrastructure, but this time, Carnival stepped in to help. Since Carnival is a private company, they were one of the first independent vessels to enter and aid with relief efforts.
Nina explained that because they were adept at handling the storm and their operations were minimally impacted, they were in a position to help others. Carnival worked with Fortune 500 companies to identify impacted employees and safely extract them from precarious situations.
During the same time frame, iJET International had close to 900 client personnel affected by the natural disasters. Most organizations had developed tailored plans to mitigate risk (thanks to iJET's help), but like many things, not all plans are foolproof. Due to the magnitude and life cycle of the hurricanes, some plans were simply unsustainable. As George put it, "In some cases, plans are built to identify the problem, solve the problem and then recover" over a one- to two-day period. In this case, three hurricanes hit various regions over a nearly 35-day period, rendering some plans useless.
That's why George says it's always best to prepare for the worst-case scenario and build plans suited for the long haul. In addition, he stressed the importance of rehearsing plans well ahead of time, fully training employees, and designating a leader who is authorized to take action when disaster strikes. Erin suggested working with an integrated risk provider because they have built the relationships needed to navigate the aftermath of these occurrences. As she said, "Making a phone call to a stranger isn't going to get your employees the support they need when a crisis is actually happening."
When these events happen and these disasters strike, more than often, your employees are likely experiencing other things in other parts of the world related to crime, political instability, terrorism or civil unrest. But your employees probably also lost their glasses on a domestic trip or need a prescription refilled…The rest of the world continues to happen too, and our teams and our plans need to be able to withstand that. – Erin Wilk
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Marianne Varkiani is GBTA's Social Media & Communications Specialist and the founder of Discover Iran, a travel agency meant to bridge divides between international communities. In her free time, Marianne can be found hiking, reading or eating. Go Terps!