To enable organizations and communities to identify and respond to a plethora of disasters and crises, they require strong support systems and relationships to be in place. This includes support from partners, customers, clients, community groups, first responders, employees and the general public at large. All of these groups are required if individuals, organizations, and communities are to become resilient. But that’s only part of the formula. Regardless of the level of participation by a business continuity or resilience professional, leveraging the benefits provided by local, national and international academic circles – or scientific research – can lift risk, response and resilience plans to an entirely new level; one that offers only benefits and provides additional insights.
The understanding of data produced by researchers and the context in which it was identified and measured, can be used to influence the scope of practice performed by a researcher and the business continuity (BC) or emergency management (EM) professional. The research conducted into the nature of hazards, vulnerabilities, and exposures identified can form part of the mandate of the BC/EM professional anywhere in the world – regardless of industry or community in which they reside.
Quite often, scientific research and academia can be the first line of risk identification and response. As industry professionals, we understand risk as we see it and experience it. However, with scientific research, we’re able to see the existence of risks we may not be aware. Scientific research is driven by various considerations, at the level of an individual researcher or community level, which can entail numerous organizations both public and private.
- Just like BC/EM professionals who focus on exercising or testing risk management, some researchers will focus on a specific topic of personal scientific interest. When a researcher has an interest on flood and flood mitigation, for instance, organizations and communities that experience re-occurring floods can benefit greatly from this research. Researchers will investigate risks, mitigation actions, causes and responses to floods; all of which can find their way into various organization and community-based disaster plans.
- Some researchers – like organizations, BC professionals, and organizational leaders – will focus on risks in their immediate area or community. Their research in disasters and risk identification may focus solely on meeting challenges within their geographic location. This means local BC/EM professionals can benefit from the research which is literally found within their own backyards.
- As the global business community changes, so too does the need to change and amended existing processes to address these changing threats. As technology capabilities expand based on continued innovation, so too does the research into developing processes and tools to respond to new technology threats. Researchers, for instance, can help develop ways in which cyber threats can be identified and addressed to ensuring safer organizations and communities.
- As noted above, research takes place all around the globe with many different areas of expertise being exercised. The result of which can be shared with international standard organizations, industry certification bodies, and global institutions such as other universities and research facilities. The benefit here would help bring together common, like-minded groups with scientific researchers to help develop appropriate risk mitigation and response plans based on fact.
- As our world changes due to global warming, pandemic, or economic crisis, researchers and BC/EM professionals will be required to identify risks and responses to factors they never thought they would encounter. Searching for resources and expanding the economies of underdeveloped communities or regions will need to be addressed. Researchers can help business professionals build the proper plans and protocols needed to address these newly identified risks.
When organizations and communities – either local or global – work together, the benefits can be shared across large areas impacted by a crisis or disaster. All researchers and BC/EM professionals are accountability to their respective organizations and communities to identify, mitigate, and respond to multiple types of disasters. To not share research findings between academia and BC/EM professionals could create problems for everyone. When a risk or risk-response has been identified, it makes sense for both academia and industry professionals to work in partnership when areas of interest and principles are so closely linked to the well-being and safety of the public.
When data which is collected and analyzed goes unused, the benefit to an organization or community goes unrealized. Not taking into account research findings can be problematic for all those involved because it can cause a continued risk to escalate in severity and probability. In the end, ignoring research will only harm organization operations. In a worst-case scenario, it can be the cause of casualties.
As the majority of disasters are local in nature, research in the resilience space is mostly driven by partnerships between local municipalities, business stakeholders, and the academic research stakeholders. Work should allow the municipality to document compliance or non-compliance with its legislative mandate or obligations to the voters. The accountability is non-commercial in nature and it can be practically carried out using document analyses of the municipality’s financial statements and the annual reports.
In the first instance, the root-cause analysis of problems like drought must be undertaken by a municipality. Challenges can be pin-pointed to a specific ward by involving the community in a ward-level risk assessment or data collection exercise. The type of data should focus on the variables controlling disaster risks, vulnerability, exposure, hazards, and the resilience of key performance areas and enablers of local government. This type of data is necessary for the effective execution of all unit operations of the disaster management cycle, the sustainability of the disaster management system, and updating of legislation in the resilience space following the principles of cooperative governance.
The activities described in the previous paragraph are important for the local nature of the BC/EM information to facilitate the development and functioning of the early-warning systems, especially in rural areas. Gaps in the various phases of the disaster management cycle can also be identified using this community-level data collection. The BC/EM becomes localized using such tools, the community is informed about the local government’s mandate, and buy-in to the program in a local government’s mandate area becomes more likely. This can decrease the damages or impacts of disasters once they strike.
Contingency measures must be put in place for these eventualities and there are various mechanisms for which can be used. The ring-fencing of funds and resources that are aimed at emergency management and the disaster risk reduction can be used as an example. The second contingency measure can be the establishment and effective functioning of various multi-stakeholder platforms. Research institutions can provide a guidance on how to optimally do this.
Vulnerability and the need to prevent exploitation is paramount to all actions taken. In the research domain, academics must adhere to best practices and the principles of scientific integrity. Ethical considerations are important to govern the action of a business, as well as government institutions and academic organizations. Sense of “right” and “wrong” must be the anchors of the BC/EM practitioner’s conduct and the judgment based on these anchors must also guide the conduct of academia. Governance guidelines and codes of conduct suggest a hierarchy of data use and information processing, along with the accountability structure and ethical oversight. These systems are critical to ensuring that risks, ethical challenges, and opportunities for change/improvement are incorporated in the (enterprise) risk management process.
Part of the framework of managing risk and ethical risks is the opportunity management. In this instance, the BC/EM professionals or stakeholders in business community identify risks and use them to open opportunities for the development of new tools, adoption of new strategies, and fixing and/or optimization of the problems in the BC/EM protocols in place.
The latest scientific findings are important to form the basis of evidence-based and up-to-date decisions. Research is the basis for this increase in the resilience of a company or business community. Academia can benefit from the opportunity of testing new approaches and identification of gaps in the studied systems. Besides opportunity management, researchers are the best allies the BC/EM professionals can have in situations such as the current COVID19 outbreak. Scientific knowledge, modeling tools, and advice can help companies and society at large develop resilient procedures and ultimately save lives. Given the unpredictability of the 21st century, partnerships between business and academia are likely to only grow stronger with time.