Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Corporate crisis exposure in turbulent times

With the turbulent unrest in the Middle East - from Tunisia to Egypt and reaching Jordan, Lebanon, Sudan and Yemen and the current situation in Libya - international corporates and governments become intensely aware that doing business in these countries does require proactive crisis management planning.

As an organisation sends more of their personnel onto dangerous ground, so the security threats, as well as business threats, widen.

Some companies work with international security organisations to monitor security issues in overseas countries and to maintain a watch on evacuation readiness. Many of these security organisations can provide emergency assistance in the event of civil or political unrest. Some even provide specialist services in hostage negotiation and security supported evacuation.

The fact is, as the threats change or escalate, so they need to be prepared for. Assessing the threat and its response is a priority.

It depends entirely on the kind of business you do and where you do it and, to some extent, how you do it, that predicts the threats that may need to be considered in the dynamics of your crisis response.

There is no doubt that damage can be minimised to overseas offices if those offices take their threat identification seriously and review what things could go wrong.

Some of the most common crisis threats at overseas locations are:

• disruption to operations
• change of government attitude or policy
• industrial action
• economic collapse and devaluation
• lawlessness and hostile demonstration
• transport accident
• fatality
• fire or explosion
• environmental damage
• serious bad weather (hurricane, typhoon, flood, tidal wave, fire storm)
• medical emergency
• epidemic

Less common threats, but those that might affect the short and long term prospects of the company, are:

• terrorist activities
• sabotage of plant and operations
• kidnap for ransom
• violent assault
• confinement or imprisonment of employees and families
• extortion
• contamination of product
• drug trafficking
• murder of expatriates
• cessation of commercial international flights

You cannot have a plan for every crisis. You cannot create a plan for ever threat. But preparing a set of basic plans and training for dealing with the most likely problems gives you a chance to get ahead of the problem. Having the decision making checklists to make sure you have covered off the things that have to be done could save lives and protect your brand and reputation internationally.