In its World Risk Index 2022, an annual report produced by International SOS that assesses the disaster risk for 193 countries, the Philippines topped the rankings with the highest disaster risk worldwide, followed by India and Indonesia. As one of the largest archipelago countries worldwide that is geographically part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, the Philippines is prone to experiencing major earthquakes and typhoons. With this in view, there is a risk of widespread infrastructure damage in densely populated areas, as well as potential security repercussions, such as increased social unrest, transportation concerns, and petty crime, making it a challenge for organizations to ensure the health and safety of their employees during natural calamities.
“Companies must have adequate plans and procedures that are tailored to the needs of their varied workforce. It is advisable that these plans be tested on a regular basis and adjusted as necessary with every encounter with a natural calamity to withstand disruption from multiple concurrent crises. The regularity of typhoons, floods, and earthquakes in the Philippines is an indicator that these natural hazards can be prepared for in advance,” said Robert Villamor, CSP, security manager for Asia at International SOS Philippines
During typhoons for instance, Villamor emphasized that communication channels and evacuation plans for affected remote workers must be in place ahead of time should relocation and medical evacuation become necessary.
Dr. David Teo, regional medical director at International SOS, further explained that businesses must adopt a flexible and robust business continuity plan because of the unpredictability of these risks. Companies should also update their crisis management plans to account for the potential escalation of a natural hazard to a medical incident.
“In the aftermath of tropical storms and typhoons, extensive flooding can spread infectious diseases. Common illnesses such as cholera, typhoid, dysentery, and gastroenteritis can be contracted through contaminated food and water. At the same time, mosquito-borne ailments such as dengue fever and chikungunya disease also pose a risk. Additionally, skin infections like fungal infections may arise. This is especially concerning as healthcare access in impacted areas may be challenging. Thus, individuals with chronic illnesses requiring medical attention are advised to keep a two-week supply of prescribed medications on hand,” said Dr. Teo
International SOS also shared that businesses can prepare to overcome these challenges by providing security awareness training to management and staff on the ground. Besides ensuring access to accurate and timely information of the on-ground environment, organizations need to educate and equip their workforce with necessary tools to mitigate their exposure to the identified security risks. This includes developing online courses on risk assessment, natural calamity preparedness, and personal health and security, to ensure that their on-the-ground workforce knows the best course of action to take, should a security concern arise in their vicinity.
Organizations must also develop appropriate responses to civil unrest and demonstrations. In many countries like India, Myanmar, Indonesia, and Philippines, insurgencies and social protests are often ethnically driven or politically motivated. What businesses should focus on is how these volatilities could affect their business operations and mitigate these threats, instead of developing responses that interfere with these domestic concerns.
Aside from this, organizations can also review their existing response capacities to natural disasters. They must be ready and able to track and ensure the safety of their workforce in affected locations, suspend operations at and travel to at-risk locations, and prepare contingency plans for disruptions to power and communications. The workforce should also be educated on the necessary supplies required for sheltering or evacuations from typhoons or cyclones, particularly food, water, personal protective equipment (PPE), sanitiser and disinfectants.
In the event of a calamity, companies should prepare medical assistance and support whenever needed. Organizations must ensure that offices have sufficient medical kits available for emergency situations and identify employees that are trained to provide first aid support if necessary.
Companies can also revisit existing plans and protocols for their traveling population. The Risk Outlook 2023 reported that while international travel is now at 83% of pre-COVID volumes, travelers want more support from their organization with their trips and are twice as likely to call for advice and assistance. Companies must ensure that their business travellers are prepared before travelling and have access to flexible itineraries and necessary support when a travel delay is inevitable.
Businesses are not alone in their fight against the storms that lie ahead. Leveraging its medical and security expertise, as well as global assistance network, International SOS can help these businesses mitigate the risks arising from multiple crises and adapt to each situation in a flexible and safe manner, while strengthening overall business and workforce resilience, business continuity and sustainability.
To learn more about how you can prepare your workforce, download the infographic on how to prepare your workforce from natural calamities here.