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The Great Japanese EQ – What we have learned already and what should you be thinking about before work on Monday

March 13, 2011

Over the past 48 hours,  I have been speaking to reporters and clients about what is happening in Japan.  It has been horrifying and heartbreaking to watch and see such incredible devastation.  There are already lessons learned and things you need to be thinking about right now.

1. Preparation pays off.

No one does earthquake preparedness and investment like the Japanese.  No one.  Yes, it is horrible and yes there will be significant loss of life and damage to property (likely, more from the tsunami), but oh my goodness…an 8.9 earthquake in any other places in the world would be cataclysmic. When your management wants to cut back your funding for emergency response, BCP or DR, remember the lessons learned from Japan’s readiness – preparation pays off.  We will write more about this in the next few days.

School children participate in a disaster drill in Japan.

2. Know your supply chain.

As we saw in the 1995 Kobe earthquake, the loss of critical vendors can have a devastating effect to companies and economies around the world.  Damage to facilities, a crumbled critical infrastructure and loss of staff will slow recovery to many affected companies. Even if the businesses can reopen soon, it will be a long time before transportation and distribution systems start working normally.  Assess the possible impacts NOW!

Displaced cargo containers in the Port of Sendai.

3. Assess the BCP and DR plans of your third party vendors.

Many of our clients use vendors around the world for critical aspects of their business.  Do you?  What are their BCP and DR plans?  Have you reviewed them?  Do you exercise with them to know the communications connection points, their areas of strength and weakness?  Are you confidant that their plans will work and the vendor will be able to continue their support of your business?  If the answer is no or I am not sure, you have some critical work to do to ensure your company will not falter or fail based on a vendors lack of preparation.

If your critical vendor was in this town, how soon could they recover?

4. Assess your enterprise wide incident (crisis) management program

If you have more than one company location, you need to have a clear incident management process that notes who is in charge at all locations, what the triggers and escalations are for plans and team activation and the communication linkages.  If you have an office in Japan, did you know exactly who to reach out to, all of the ways to contact them and what their immediate plans would be?  If not, start now to develop an enterprise wide program that will support the locations and keep the corporate “mothership” abreast of the important local issues.

Does every location have a plan? Person in charge? Strategies for communication?

Get a good nights sleep on Sunday and eat a solid breakfast…. you are going to be very busy come Monday (assuming you haven’t worked all weekend already!).

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