Preparing for Multiple and Concurrent Disasters

Strategies and Considerations for
Mitigation-Preparedness-Response-Recovery Phases
May 12, 2020

 

Most organizations with large global footprints have been challenged in the past to respond to multiple and concurrent crises. This is not necessarily the case when your operations are delivered within the boundaries of a much smaller scale.

In smaller footprint operations, the experience is greener, budgets and capacities are tighter, and the overall sustainability of responding to one crisis let alone multiple is typically less as well. Covid-19 has undoubtedly tested your limits of emergency response capacity; however, it’s time to start considering what multiple and concurrent disaster scenarios look like.

The hard fact is though, it’s not a matter of if you’ll have to face this type of scenario, it’s when. We don’t know for sure when this pandemic will be over, and it could take years. So, here are some strategies and considerations for you to help better prepare for the inevitable.

MITIGATION

Where can you take action right now to reduce the impact that a multiple/concurrent disaster scenario will have on your audiences?

  • What changes need to be made to your emergency and crisis response plans? Do evacuation plans and strategies need to change in order to accommodate the latest health directives? Where will people go? What about your staff working from home, how do they need to be accommodated in a multiple/concurrent disaster scenario?
  • What partners need to be called to the table? Who else can you fold into the framework? How can you create more depth in the bench?
  • How will you fund the response? Where will the funding come from? Do you have those agreements in place already?
  • Examine supply chains currently and in the event of long term disruption as well as infrastructure outages.
In addition, looking at both the technical/engineering and social paradigms of disaster risk reduction, you’ll need to consider environmental and social justice, reducing inequality in response, and reevaluate your current risk management programs to ensure all hazards have been accounted for in absolute failure scenarios.

PREPAREDNESS

Preparedness isn’t just about what you do internally. It’s also about building resiliency capacity in the community. Here are nine ways you can start doing this right now:

  1. Maintain and improve effective communication
  2. Ensure everyone understands the risks & uncertainties
  3. Use local knowledge and resources -this helps build credibility as well as allows for faster pivots
  4. Develop opportunities and maintain social connectedness – when people feel connected, they feel supported
  5. Empower your people
  6. Preparation engagement – when people have a stake in something, they’re more likely to take action and understand better
  7. Stakeholder collaboration
  8. Develop flexibility – normalize change
  9. Encourage and help build capacity for self-organization

RESPONSE

This might seem like it will come naturally at the time, but if you don’t have all your ducks in a row, things can get out of hand quicker than you think. During this time, it’s imperative that you’re ready to scale your operations in an instant. Multiple and concurrent disasters may seem like just doubling a recipe, but it’s much more complicated than that.

  • Priority response – you’ll need to determine audiences, locations, safety hazards and more and prioritize what response looks like on a priority basis
  • Mapping – people, resources, disasters, messaging
  • Duty of Care – remember your legal obligation in every scenario to respond with the best effort in every scenario

RECOVERY

The recovery phase(s) in a multiple/concurrent disaster scenario is different because the likelihood that all the crises will end concurrently is next to impossible. Especially with the stringent health directives still in place, supporting people through this phase will be more challenging because they’ll want to “get back to normal”, even though a crisis may still be taking place. Evaluation, Education, Compassion, Support will all be paramount in this phase. The better you increase resiliency through the recovery phase, the more you’ll reduce the vulnerability of your audiences in the future.

Want to chat more? Let’s have a ‘virtual’ coffee! Or register up for Crisis Lab 4.0 – Annual Crisis Communications Conference and connect with peers in the ‘lounge’ there.

Katie Robertson