BCM/DR/ERM and the Egyptian Crisis

(NOTE:  Since writing this, things have changed and people – many people – have been injured and things look to be falling apart.  This story isn’t over, there is going to be many more chapters to this story we can learn from…until then.)

Like many of you, I’ve been watching the events unfold in Egypt.  I’ve also noticed how the rest of the world seems to be watching very closely with what might happen there and what the repercussions will be for the rest of the world. 

It got me thinking about some of the learning’s that BCM/DR/ERM can take from the current situation so I thought I’d capture some of them.  As more and more things unfold there, this list will probably grow and you’ll want to add to it but after 5 days, this is what immediately came to mind.

  1. Social Media – If you ever wondered about the power of the internet, Egypt is a great example of how social media/network sites can be utilized (Whether for good or not, is up for debate based on the situation).  It was used in this case to mobilize people to demonstrate but in disaster, social media sites could obviously be used to help get your message out to the public, media, clients/customers and even your employees.  Social media sites can be used maliciously and carry the wrong news (rumours etc) and it can be used to help.  Think about how your organization could utilize a social media site if you experienced a disaster.  Could it help or could it hinder what you’re trying to do?
  2. Supply Chain – Due to the protests, some ships have said they are wary of going through the Suez and many deliveries have stopped going to Cairo (where most protests are centred).  As a result, businesses are running out of supplies, which slows down production – if it hasn’t already come to a complete halt.  For businesses, you have to understand what to do when your supply lines are cut or hampered by disruptions (including civil unrest).  For some good details on supply chain management, see Jan Husdal’s site at www.husdal.com
  3. Emergency Response – Lucking there hasn’t been any deaths or major incidents with people at this point.  However, with so many people wandering about how would ambulances and other ER personnel get to those in need of assistance?  Would there be training for crowd control so that those in need of assistance can actually get the help they will need. 
  4. Communications – Above I noted how social media/networks can help people but these same things can be cut off and there availability is gone.  With the internet not available, what does that do to many businesses?  With the internet so important in today’s business world, what would happen to your business if it was suddenly not there?  Do you have alternatives in place?  With no communications, it only spreads fear, as people want information.  If you can’t communicate with employee’s and your business partners, are they still going to think all is well at your end?  Probably not, and they may begin to guess and spread rumours or conjecture based on your situation. 
  5. Crisis Management – Doing nothing or staying silent will only cause more issues.  Keeping quiet only escalates issues and as time passes, it appears things are more and more out of control.  In other disasters, ignoring the fact that something is going on can only cause problems to escalate – sometimes until they are out of control.   
  6. Not Listening – By not listening to the protesters, the feeling for more a crisis can grow.  Too often those in upper management believe they know what is right but those in the trenches are the ones who know what is really going on because they are part of the crisis.  I’m not promoting either side here but listening can help remove allot of the issues that come when trying to deal with disasters and crises.  The government here is obviously not listening and the crisis is growing. 
  7. Conflicting/Different Roles – Who was in control during this situation?  It was hard to tell if the army was in control but not doing anything or if the police were in control and being violent.  With no words coming from the government, it was unclear what role people are playing.  Is it a case of everyone believing they are in control or assuming someone else is in control.  You know what happens then…
  8. Not Learn From Others – To manage the crisis and do the right thing, there is the chance to have learned what would happen by watching the events in Tunisia a few weeks ago.  There were learning’s from these events that Egyptian authorities could learn from.
  9. Catch People Off Guard – Events such as this – and other disasters – will catch people off guard.  Rarely do you have the ability to predict disasters.  You can predict storms but not truly know what the impacts will be – or how long.  This is an example of that.
  10. Pubic Authorities – I guess in this case it would be the police and the army, both of which seem to be doing two different things.  But, how would corporations deal with these institutions when they are doing different things?  What kind of information would your company be seeking during civil disturbances and who do you think you’d be talking to…or listening to?  Do you have this in you plans already?
  11. Security – Well, not just for the people (which seemed to lack later in the week) but for buildings.  The museum was heavily protected but another office building was ‘commandeered’ by protesters (I think it was pro-government) and they – for lack of a better term – trashed the entire facility.  They destroyed it, which could mean that people suddenly had access to corporate files and personnel files.  Do you have security measures in place when you facility is impacted by some sort of a crisis/disaster?
  12. Single Points of Contact – Though this is a unique situation, many didn’t know who the SPoC was for the opposition, the group protesting.  There were various factions and people speaking for different areas but no real central point (though this seems to be changing a bit).  In your organziation, do you have a SPoC for media, for employees and other areas that can be utilized when information is needed?  Will poeple know who to get their message from and when to receive it?

 I know this is very high-level and not too in depth at this stage but then this is an ongoing crisis and we just don’t know what some of the long-term impacts are going to be.  We do know that there are impacts; to people, businesses, facilities and the general well-being of the country.  Only time will tell us what other impacts will be found as a result of this.

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