Threats to the continuity of business are plentiful and have the habit of occurring at a time of maximum inconvenience, and when and where they are least expected – think tsunami and, more recently, Mumbai.
Even with advance warnings, the lead time to react – to a hurricane such as Katrina, for example – can prove too small a window if prior preparation is not in place.
Planning is, of course, key, and while every eventuality cannot be individually planned for, thorough preparation in terms of crisis management planning and emergency response, by their very nature, can be adapted to cope with any arising situation.
In addition, many tools can be adopted to mitigate risk and put the control into the hands of those directly affected, and the company itself.
Many of these methods of mitigation are simply commonsense and do not necessarily need to be costly, and they can be transferable across geographical areas of operation, departments and even work and private life.
Training is certainly a key component, whether this is arming personnel with knowledge of the environment in which they are to be deployed or the actual training of members of the crisis management team in how to deal with such situations.
Linked to this is information, or intelligence, the continued circulation of timely knowledge of the threats posed and reality in-country.
This can be for a variety of risks, be it security, medical or crime-related. Insurance for issues such as evacuation – both medical and security – and even kidnap and ransom are also prudent measures to employ, while physical fitness and good health should also be promoted.
Threats posed by medical conditions and accidents are perhaps those most commonly faced by the energy industry, and provision for medical evacuation is standard practice, as are inoculations and medicals.
Increasingly – although largely reactively – companies are coming to realise the importance of preparation and provision in terms of the security challenges they face.
Indeed, the issues of the security and medical safety of personnel are inherently interlinked and, thus, in an ideal world, should be addressed together, particularly in terms of planning, crisis management and evacuation.
One area where this can be highlighted is the threat to personnel that is posed by their very presence in hostile climatic conditions – which was the topic of a recent Lunch and Learn event hosted in Aberdeen by the UK West Africa Action Group (UKWAAG) and AKE.
Whether heat, humidity, cold or altitude, these climatic conditions frequently impact on operational success and the security of personnel and assets. Difficult terrain and natural disasters can also be included under this wider banner.
The failure to thoroughly prepare for working in climatic conditions such as the heat and humidity found in the west of Africa, the arid desert conditions of the Middle East and the extreme cold of northern Russia can adversely affect security through the difficulties they add to the performance of otherwise innocuous tasks – and this is in addition to the medical challenges posed by disease and heat and cold-related illness.
Such conditions can impose additional pressures and cause an impairment of situational awareness and ability to operate. In turn, this can expose personnel to the risks associated with more traditional security threats.
Of course, when operational in regions such as the Middle East and north and west Africa, difficult climatic conditions come face to face with difficult security environments. In such circumstances, the value of preparation at a corporate level, and of those personnel deployed, becomes clearly apparent.
Knowledge of the risks – both medical and security – and being in good health and physical condition are important factors in being able to react to any threats.
In a worst-case scenario – for example, a kidnap situation – maintaining your health while in the hostile conditions imposed by captivity and fighting diseases such as malaria are vitally important.
Indeed, for those kidnapped in the Niger Delta, it may or may not be reassuring that untreated malaria is more likely to claim your life than being taken by kidnappers, and there are many more potential health risks which are easily overlooked despite their potentially debilitating, even fatal, consequences.
Indeed, how many of you deployed to hot and humid environments know the difference between the symptoms of heat stroke and heat exhaustion and the different treatments required?
Claire Fleming is corporate relations manager at AKE in Aberdeen. To subscribe to AKE’s free weekly risk updates, contact services.aberdeen @akegroup.com