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Organisational resilience in the face of a severe heatwave forecast

There are serious industry concerns New South Wales could be hit with blackouts from tomorrow afternoon due to record high energy demand, as the state grapples with some of the worst heatwave conditions that NSW has ever seen over the next three days.

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) has issued an alert predicting a tightening balance between supply and demand with forecast electricity demand to reach around 14,700 megawatts (MW), the highest ever demanded in NSW.

The AEMO said it was working to reduce the need for so-called “load shedding events”, like the one which saw 90,000 properties lose power in Adelaide on 8 February 2017. “Load shedding could occur instantly if the demand supply balance changed rapidly.”

Blackouts could happen instantly to protect supply. The resultant consequence for critical infrastructure owner/operators and other business though, could be catastrophic, resulting in widespread business and operating disruptions.

Business Resilience Advice

The key to effective business resilience in times of severe weather forecasts, such as the one NSW is facing over the next 72 hours is not to be REACTIVE. Organisations and businesses need to be PROACTIVE. Pre posture your readiness and response arrangements and activate your incident, emergency and crisis planning before the potential business impact.

The following key readiness initiatives have been provided to assist your organisational readiness in the face of this potential severe heatwave emergency;

1.    Avoid a delayed organisational response. Ensure relevant staff and managers are aware of your internal notification and escalation triggers and processes that will activate pre determined levels of response, as and if required.

2.    Ensure you have nominated and confirmed ‘on call’ membership of your incident, emergency and crisis teams, and that relevant contact details are current and tested.

3.    Conduct an Operational Readiness Check of both your automated incident/emergency notification systems and Incident Control Centres/Rooms.

4.    Situational Awareness. Convene a team briefing (face to face or virtual) with your IMT, EMT and/or CMT to establish situational awareness of potential environmental and business risks and threats. Develop and agree upon pre response plans to mitigate potential business impacts of excessive heat conditions.

5.    Staff and customer safety is priority. Ensure staff and customer welfare plans have been established to mitigate potential adverse health effects as a result of the forecast heatwave conditions. Reference state agency health alerts and warnings.

6.    Ensure key staff are aware of established business continuity plans and what their associated roles and responsibilities within these plans are.

7.    Reduce single supply point vulnerability. Seek assurance from key critical service providers that they have enacted operational and business readiness plans to ensure business continuity.

8.    Catastrophic bushfire forecast. For those businesses that have close proximity to, or are located on the bushland urban interface, ensure you maintain situational awareness via the accessing of the NSW Rural Fire Service website and Apps.

Finally, it is a lot easier to escalate and activate early, then de-escalate if not required, rather than explain to your key stakeholders why the impact of your business disruption may have been mitigated if only you had acted early.

If you require any assistance, advice or support relating to business readiness and resilience, please have no hesitation in contacting myself on 0498 853 736.

Holidays have no immunity to crisis

The festive season is now upon us, and many thoughts and planning will soon be turning from work to relaxation over the Christmas period. However, organisations need to remain cognisant that these holiday periods do not provide immunity for a crisis to either develop, or impact their business.

Having had to coordinate the response to numerous emergencies and crisis over the past 30 years, (many of these occurring during the holiday period) I acknowledge that it is during these times when organisational susceptibility to crisis events are amplified for a myriad of reasons, such as;

  • limited staff onsite
  • unavailability of staff to respond
  • decreased monitoring of risks
  • volatility of severe weather events (flooding, storms, fires).

If I were to provide a Christmas Wish List with just 6 key actions for organisations to implement to enhance their emergency and crisis preparedness and readiness for this festive period, and indeed ongoing readiness, they would be:

1. Awareness of Escalation Triggers:

Ensure that you will receive notification of an impending or actual crisis event. Confirm that those managers and senior staff who will either be remaining at work, or monitoring your business threats, are fully aware of what your agreed organisational incident, emergency and crisis management triggers are, and importantly, the requirement to escalate this to the Crisis Management Team.

2. Crisis Management Team (CMT) availability:

Ensure that you will be able to contact all the members of the CMT if a crisis is declared. Pre-plan and identify those members that will be available, and those that will not. Holiday periods with reduced staff is a good time to maximise your crisis management capability development and capacity by ‘standing up’ some of the alternate CMT members if required.

3. Accessible Crisis Management Tools:

Ensure that all the members of the CMT still remember where, and how to access the crisis management tools. Confirm that all the CMT members have access to, and know how to utilise the tools if required.

4. Updated Key Stakeholder contacts:

Ensure that previously identified key stakeholders, both internal and external to the organisation, will be contactable over the holiday period.  Seek clarification before the holiday break on what contacts will be available over this time and document and share this information.

5. Clarity of Key Stakeholder expectations:

Ensure that your CEO, Board and Regulators have the same expectations of the CMT during these holidays as they would during a normal business day. Seek clarity and confirmation on issues such as ‘when do they want to be contacted’, ‘how do they want to be contacted’, ‘for what reasons do they want to be contacted’. This can be a decisive readiness initiative that will protect reputations and brands.

6. Crisis Control Room Operational Readiness:

Ensure that if you are called in during these holidays, to coordinate a crisis response, that the designated Crisis Control Room is in a state of Operational Readiness. Seek assurance by conducting an operational readiness check of the facility to ensure the technology and supporting equipment is working, before the holidays begin.

If you require any additional crisis and emergency capability readiness assurance, now is the time to act.

Wishing every organisation, a very merry, safe and prosperous Christmas, and most importantly, emergency and crisis free!