The Japanese Earthquake / Tsunami Disaster: Some Lessons…So Far (Part III)

Well, earthquake and tsunami disaster in Japan just keeps on giving us some things to think about.  Already I’ve posted Part 1 & 2 on this subject and having read and watched a few more reports recently, I can actually post a Part III.

As damaging and severe and the disaster was – and the terrible loss of life – we, as a society, can learn from these disasters so that we can prepare and respond appropriately when (not if) a similar situation occurs again.  That is just one piece of it.  Post-disaster situations also provide us with lessons learned and things to think about.  Sometimes they cause other situations to occur that are well beyond the normal disaster itself.  This particular situation certainly has provided the world with other things to think about and I’ve listed a few of them.

1 – Political Fallout – This disaster proved that no one is immune from the impacts – immediate or long term.  Due to the lack of preparedness and leadership, the Japanese Prime Minister resigned due to political pressure over the mismanagement and mishandling of the disaster.  If PMs can lose their jobs, it’s safe to say that corporate leaders can also lose their jobs if they don’t show leadership and have some knowledge on managing disaster situations.

2 – Corporate Responses – Not all corporations with preparedness and response processes in place actually perform appropriately.  Some will still try to hide the situation and in what some might say, try to downplay the impacts.  This is bad crisis
management and bad public relations.  The nuclear plant at the centre of the controversy (the disaster) actually used employees to demonstrate that they plan was OK.  In fact, it wasn’t and seemed to be getting worse throughout time.  The point is that instead of managing the situation and communicating effectively, at one point the corporation was trying to show the opposite of the situation.

3 – Nuclear Free Zones – Even though many areas are struggling to provide enough power to their citizenry, some areas are beginning to look at stopping their nuclear programs altogether.  Around the world since the Japanese situation, power plants that were being developed have stopped being built or the plans have been stopped so that safety reviews can be performed before the
plant ever gets build – or comes on line.  When this occurs, it put many out of work, which isn’t an immediately know ramification of the earthquake and tsunami.  Especially when you consider these things are occurring in Europe and North America; thousands of miles away from Japan.

4 – Increased Civil Unrest – As a result of the nuclear plants problems, communities around the world are suddenly encountering civil demonstrations against the use of nuclear power.  This puts strain on police services and people that work in these areas.
When large demonstrations occur, corporations that aren’t in the nuclear industry can be impacted and thus must activate their contingency strategies.  Think of the G20/G8 summits over the years when there was much damage caused by demonstrators.  With the Japanese issues, the number of demonstrations against nuclear power has increased and has the ability to impact many other corporations.  (As of writing this, the “Occupy Wall Street” protests have spread to a global level.)

5 – Alternate Sources of Power – One of the positive aspects of the nuclear power plant problems in Japan has been an increased focus on renewable energies.  Many companies that deal with ‘green’ technologies have increased business and more and more people are turning to alternate sources.  Many people have placed solar panels on their roofs so that their isn’t as much dependency on nuclear and other (considered) dangerous methods of power creation.

6 – Increased Corporate Visibility – Regardless of what a corporation does, when a disaster occurs many begin to look at the preparedness levels of their own corporation.  In some cases, it may be that employees are asking about the corporate BCM/DR plan; in other cases, the queries are coming from business partners or potential business partners.  Either way, there is an increase in the visibility of corporate plans, which if they aren’t sufficient enough, or don’t address people’s concerns, are being questioned and communicated to others.  There were many reports by the media about what corporations would do if the same sort of disaster that occurred in Japan, occurred in the US, Canada, UK (and other countries).  Companies are now under the microscope even more so than before.  The financial crisis beginning in 2008 hasn’t help corporations hide behind their boardroom doors and stay under the radar.  The public (and employee) consciousness is now asking questions to ensure they will be safe in the event of a disaster.

Over the coming weeks, months and even years, we will continue to learn lesson from Japan.  We’ll also learn lessons from other disasters that seem to continue on an almost daily basis.  Not only are these situation disastrous and calamitous – especially for those that are impacted by them – they are also learning opportunities for companies, people and communities to help bolster
existing preparedness and response plans.  Japan, continues to show us learning opportunities and what happens if we (corporations, people, communities) aren’t prepared…just ask the former Prime Minister.


 “Heads in the Sand: What Stops Corporations From Seeing Business Continuity as a Social Responsibility” and

“Made Again Volume 1 – Practical Advice for Business Continuity Programs”

by StoneRoad founder, A.Alex Fullick, MBCI, CBCP, CBRA, ITILv3

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