Natural disaster + being prepared = better for business

In New Zealand, natural disasters often come with little or no warning, threatening lives and livelihoods. A new organisation, Resilient Organisations New Zealand(external link), wants businesses to start thinking about disasters now so they can cope better when one strikes.

Resilient NZ offers advice to businesses about how to prepare for disasters, based on its research into how organisations fared after the Canterbury earthquakes.

“A consistent message we heard from all sectors involved in the Canterbury earthquake recovery was that businesses of all sizes have skills and experience that can help their local community to recover and there is a strong desire amongst the business community to do more to help,” says Bryce Davies, from insurer IAG.

IAG is one of the founding companies of Resilient NZ, along with BNZ, New Zealand Red Cross, Vodafone and engineering company Beca. 

The size of smaller businesses, and their ability to adapt to change quickly, are advantages after a disaster. But these businesses also need the support of the wider community.

“Given many small and medium-sized businesses don’t have the capital necessary to absorb the significant costs imposed by disasters or periods when their business isn’t operational, it’s vital they are prepared and have relationships they can call on in times of need,” says Davies.

Five tips for helping your business prepare for disaster:

  1. Be proactive – work out what you can do to be resilient and how you can help your community and other organisations to do the same.
  2. Identify risks – think about how natural disasters could affect your business and ways to avoid or minimise those risks.
  1. Strengthen disaster plans –  develop a robust plan that covers your whole business, including staff, assets, information, distribution channels, customers and suppliers. Practice your plan and make sure staff know their roles.
  2. Be agile – you’ll need to adapt quickly to changes that natural disasters can bring. Focus on leadership development, building the right skills and making sure your staff are engaged and stay healthy.
  3. Build relationships – make sure the networks you build are broad and deep. Include not only other businesses, but also central and local government, non-governmental and community organisations (NGOs).

BusinessNZ Chief Executive Phil O’Reilly says businesses need to establish disaster plans and test them under a variety of scenarios.

“Not only will this preparation support the well-being of their employees, it can assist businesses to keep trading following a disaster, allowing employees to continue to receive wages and salaries.”

To find out more about how to make your business more resilient, visit the Resilient Organisations New Zealand website(external link).

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