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Scenario Based Continuity Planning Weaknesses

16 Nov 2005

Bird Flu Another Example Of The Weakness Of Scenario Based Continuity Planning

Current efforts in NZ and overseas to plan for the medical impact of a bird flu outbreak distract organisational leaders from the real issues of continuity management. Without a comprehensive and ongoing programme to build resilience, scenario-based planning will continue to draw attention and resources into short term focussed activities while still leaving organisations lacking in the resilience needed to operate through a range of other contingencies.

Wellington-based risk specialist, Dr Simon Ewing-Jarvie spoke to a cross section of senior public and private sector representatives last night on the subject of real versus imaginary risk and preparation for it. Colleague Steve Watts highlighted this with his experiences working in Shanghai during the SARS outbreak.

Without casting doubt on the potential for physical harm, the clinical impact of a bird flu pandemic will probably be far less damaging than the perceptual factor. Foot and mouth scares are an example of this.

“The real risk to organisations include denial of facilities and negative cash flow due to staff, suppliers and customers being unwilling or unable to move around,” Dr Ewing-Jarvie said. “But this is also true of earthquakes, terrorist threats and a range of other scenarios beyond bird flu,” he said.

“The solution lies in an ongoing development of organisational capability – resources, communication and training. Business continuity is an every day organisational development task, not a clip-on.”

Dr Ewing-Jarvie’s research has shown that NZers tend to focus their emergency preparedness mostly on events that have occurred to them before or those that have been sensationalized in the media, regardless of the real potential impact.


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