This past year brought a semi-return to normal. While COVID-19 hasn’t disappeared, it has become something organizations simply have to deal with on a regular basis. But our current operating environment continues to be dominated by a range of increasing risks, leaving organizations feeling a bit overwhelmed—and underprepared.
According to a recent report, global infrastructure and technology incidents, like power outages and technical disasters, rose +111% from 2020 to 2021, weakening infrastructure and threatening the supply chain. Extreme weather and natural disasters were up 47% in 2021 and increasingly occur outside of predictable, well-defined patterns, which compounds stressors on organizations and government agencies. Man-made threats are also on the uptick: Civil unrest skyrocketed in 2020 and still slightly increased from 2020 to 2021 (+4%), while reported shootings increased by 250% from 2020 to 2021.
The Spectrum of Risk
The most disastrous events are usually the ones that dominate the public’s attention (Who can forget the Ever Given container ship accident in the Suez Canal?) But it’s important to remember that risks aren’t limited to the crises that make major news headlines. They can also result from hyper-local physical threats that tend to fly under the radar—yet can result in major disaster for an organization that isn’t prepared. For instance, putting the attention on all of the possible outcomes of a major storm instead of solely on the direct damage that event may bring will help organizations better develop safety and security processes that are proactive rather than reactive.
Furthermore, the biggest risks aren’t always large-scale disasters in and of themselves, such as pandemics. Rather, they can be the subsequent risks that result from those disasters, such as what we’re still seeing since the pandemic started: the Great Resignation, a labor shortage and incessant cyber threats. These risks were not a direct result of the COVID-19 spread, but rather ripple effects of the pandemic.
Consider the following example: A major airline based in Atlanta experienced an unexpected labor shortage when a tornado hit a nearby town. While the company prepared for how the tornado would directly impact its office locations, terminals and flight schedules, it was completely unprepared for the indirect impact the storms would have on the local labor pool—in particular, flight attendants. Many team members lived in the nearby town and were unable to report to work for almost a week because of power outages, gas-main breaks and evacuations.
A predetermined contingency plan, built through proper analysis and teamwork, could have prompted a better response to the tornado’s consequences. The airline could have mapped out how many employees lived in the affected town and determined how to manage the potential absence of those employees—while also making a plan to strengthen employee safety and support the affected employees needing help.
Now's the Time to Plan
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by today’s increasingly dynamic and unpredictable threat landscape, you’re not alone. The frequency and severity of critical events combined with the dramatic breadth and depth of their impact has led many security, business continuity and risk management professionals to fall back on a reactive approach to crisis.
It doesn’t have to stay that way.
While you can’t control the events happening around the world and their ripple effects, you can take proactive measures to protect your people, places and property.
Ready to learn more?
Watch this on-demand expert panel discussion: Today’s Missteps are Tomorrow’s News: Preparing for Risk Post Pandemic. Featuring OnSolve risk management, business continuity and emergency management experts, the panel discusses trending physical threats worldwide and provide insights on how organizations like yours can proactively prepare for the challenges of 2023 and beyond.