National Preparedness Month, recognized every September, serves as an annual reminder for businesses to ensure they’re ready for any kind of disruptive event. Whether it’s fires, floods, cyberattacks or inflation, companies of any size stand to lose greatly if they’re not prepared for the risks that threaten their businesses.
“The reality is that businesses are facing a complex, dynamic world of risk,” remarked Steve Hernandez (pictured), senior vice president for commercial risk control at CNA.
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“National Preparedness Month is a good time to remember that if you want to grow and thrive as a business, leaders have to continually examine potential disruptions, respond effectively when one occurs, and improve after each incident,” he added.
In time for National Preparedness Month, Hernandez told Insurance Business the top five risks businesses should be prepared for:
Extreme weather events
Hurricanes, floods, wildfires, tornadoes, and hailstorms caused billions in losses last year. Business leaders are rightly worried, but Hernandez said mapping out their company’s risks geographically and across stakeholders will be key to mitigating losses and disruption. Scenario-planning can also boost the speed and quality of incident response in case of major weather events.
“The key is completing an inventory of extreme weather events across business operations and locations. They should consider not just the impact on what the business does, but also on suppliers, raw materials providers, secondary operations, and customers. Building a risk profile analysis is going to help determine how extreme weather can have a potential impact and most importantly, cause disruption to a business,” Hernandez explained.
This risk can occur even outside of storms and extreme rainfall but can be just as devastating. Every minute of delay in responding to a water event increases the property damage and extent of business disruption, according to Hernandez. Water spreads fast, and even in the early stages of flooding, can irreparably alter the condition of wooden and metal items.
Businesses should conduct a thorough assessment of interior water supply lines, drains, plumbing, equipment, and appliances. They should also check for possible leaks, and have gutters and roofs inspected and cleaned annually.
“There is an emergence of technology around passive and active water detection that can tilt the scales with respect to minimizing water damage for some occupancies and businesses,” Hernandez noted.
Ergonomic hazards are aspects of a job or task that cause discomfort, strain, or injury on a worker. These risks impact employee performance and well-being. Supply chain disruptions and the rising cost of raw materials are increasingly leading to shortages of equipment that aids or enables physical work, which could lead to more ergonomic exposures.
“A shortage can prompt businesses to figure out how they can increase their operational efficiency. That can entail process changes like more material handling, more repetitive motion, and exposing employees to more high-risk tasks [if equipment isn’t available],” said Hernandez.
Reducing repetition, easing mental demands, and minimizing fatigue will go a long way to keeping employees safe, and businesses from being disrupted.
Then there’s the great debate about remote work versus returning to the office. Hernandez pointed out that businesses need to account for different ergonomic exposures for either, or a combination thereof.
No company is immune to cyberattacks today: threat actors are actively seeking out businesses’ data to extort ransom payments. A company doesn't need to handle sensitive information to become a target; often the goal is simply to halt business operations, which means leaders must be ready with a continuity plan.
Hernandez cited patching third-party platforms like web browsers and mobile devices, restricting data backups from unauthorized access, and ensuring that a business is not using the end-of-life platforms as a few cyber security measures to consider.
“Businesses should proactively migrate off platforms before support ends, which is key to leveraging a high-quality endpoint protection platform,” he noted.
Employee awareness can also be strengthened through programs that emphasize cyber security as everybody’s responsibility.
Supply chain challenges, inflation, oil price increases – there’s no shortage of economic challenges today that can hamper a company’s operations.
“Intermittent unpredictable shipping backlogs and supply bottlenecks continue to happen. The global supply chain is weakened and significantly more vulnerable, especially when you consider some of these other risks that we've talked about,” Hernandez said.
Leaders should prepare for longer periods of business interruption and factor in time for their operations to fully recover. Amid the uncertain economic environment, business leaders should build a resilient mindset, according to Hernandez.
“You can't eliminate the possibility of disruptions, but you can prepare for them through sound business resiliency programs,” he added. “Getting together with key stakeholders to go through some disaster resilience planning, to evaluate the risk profile through an extensive planning process are some steps that [leaders] can do.”