Sri Lankan companies told how to reduce disaster risk

ECONOMYNEXT – Companies in Sri Lanka, which has been hit by successive droughts and floods in recent years, can educe risk to disasters by taking precautions like being aware of hazards, having contingency plans and incraesing supply chain flexibility.

“You may think you are safe and not need to do anything but the unexected can happen,” said Buddhi Weerasinghe, consultant to the Consultant, Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC).

“Businesses do have blind spots with many having no consideration of disaster risk in their business plans. But the 100-year disaster events are becoming much more frequent.”

Weerasinghe recalled the floods in May 2017 with 500mm of rain falling in 24 hours in some places that caused much damage and disrupted nomal life and economic activity.

In events like heavy rainfall, companies need to understand where the water would go, think of the worst case scenario, what could be impacted and prepare a list of buildings and locations that could be affected.

“You should expect the unexpected and be prepared,” Weerasinghe told a forum on strenthening preparedness and emergency response in Sri Lanka.

“Do you have emergency plans? Do you know the hazards around you?” he asked, suggesting that companies should look at their own organisations and make them safe and prepare for emegencies.

Companies should also look at their suppy chains as well as their corporate responsibility for the public, Weerasinghe told the forum organised by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce and conducted by the Sri Lanka Preparedness Partnership ( SLPP).

The SLPP is an initiative of the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center of Bangkok, and has representation from the Disaster Management Center (DMC), National Disaster Relief Services Center (NDRSC), Center for Humanitarian Affairs (CHA) and the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce.

Weerasinghe said studies of past disasters and lessons learnt from them showed that companies could reduce vulnerability to disasters by pulling out operations from exposed areas.

“You can reduce working with suppliers who do not become resilient to avoid risk,” he added.

“You can reduce risk by being cautions in expansion into areas that are unsafe. You need to imcrease supply chain flexibility and build redudancy and develop emergency planning actions like standard operating procedures.”

Having globalised supply chains can create vulnerabilities, Weerasinghe said, recalling how Toyota lost $1.2 billion sales due to parts shortages that disrupted production in several of their plants after the 2011 Fukushima earthquake and tsunami.

Disasters can have national impacts with the Japan’s economic growth falling for two consecutive quarters after the 2011 Fukushima earthquake and tsunami.
Thailand’s 2011 floods caused its economic growth to fall by 9% and lose its first place as the global rice exporter to Vietnam and India as its recovery was hampered by the 2015 El Nino drought.

Businesses also might not be able to recover properly from disasters, he said, noting that befor the 1995 Kobe earthquake its port was the world’s 6th busiest but now only 47th in the world.

“Direct disaster losses are 50% higher than internationally reported figures,” Weerasinghe said. “The most unrpeorted losses are losses unaccounted for by lack of business continuity capacity.”

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