The recent floods highlight the fact that South Africa is vulnerable to its own set of natural disasters with the potential to disrupt businesses quite substantially. Flooding is a periodic danger in many parts of the country, including Gauteng and the Western Cape, while other natural disasters like water shortages owing to drought, wind and hail damage must be factored into sustainability planning, says Cindy Bodenstein, marketing manager of ContinuitySA.
“Compared to many other parts of the world, South Africa does has a relatively benign climate, but disasters do occur and can have devastating effects on businesses, as the recent floods have reminded us,” she says. “Even a fairly localised climatic event can put an unprepared company out of business; responsible companies and their boards must factor natural disasters into their scenario planning to ensure staff safety in the event of a natural disaster, but also to ensure that the business has robust contingency plans to recover as quickly as possible.”
Bodenstein also says that local companies must not forget that they are increasingly part of global supply chains, and so are affected by the impact of natural disasters elsewhere.”
For example, the tsunami that hit Japan in 2011 did not only devastate that country, it meant that many Japanese factories could not supply components needed in international supply chains, automotive and electronics companies were particularly hard hit. The massive hurricanes in the United States this year have affected certain supply chains as well.
Planning an emergency response to a flood, hurricane or similar event is obviously critical, but it is even more important that companies factor natural disasters into a comprehensive business continuity management plan.
“Business continuity management is a much more comprehensive process that aims to identify and prioritise risks in terms of their potential impact on business processes, and put mitigation and recovery strategies in place,” she says. “Coping with the disaster is just the start, you have to know how to get the business back up and running in the shortest time possible, and only business continuity management can do that.”
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