Vulnerability Analysis

Will my house, business or organization be prepared when our home, community or island is impacted by natural or man-made disasters? The world and by extension the Caribbean are impacted in several ways and regardless of the level of preparedness as perceived by persons, something often happens. Barbados over the years has developed unacceptable levels of complacency to emergency preparedness and business continuity management. As we are all seeking to cope with various levels of economic stability, we continue at our peril, one day not to deploy wholesome comprehensive disaster management concepts, initiatives and practices. One primary tool disaster planners use to inform them of what gaps and deformities exist in any circumstances is a “vulnerability analysis”. Vulnerability analysis simply put is to assess the probability and potential impact of the different risks that you can identify that can pose a danger to your home, business or community organization. Let’s consider some steps in our vulnerability analysis.

  1. As broad based involvement as possible in your house, organization, community or businesses.
  2. List all the potential risks, that could affect you and the people of your home, organisation, community or business
    • Historical – What or which of these hazards have you experienced in the past?
    • Natural –  Fire, severe flood or weather, earthquake, accidents, utility outages, hurricane, social unrest, hazardous spills.
    • Technological – What could happen if you experience a systems failure
    • Electrical power outages – (their frequency and length) Telecommunication failure and telecommunication
    • Fires – hazardous in nature Explosions as a result of chemicals
    • Geographic – What often happens as a result of your geographic location. Your proximity to flood prone areas, water courses Your proximity to industrial plants, manufacturing companies. To companies who store, use or transport hazardous materials
    • Human resources – how trained or equipped are your family, employees to safely mitigate or respond to risk that are human generated or caused. How can you assess your personnel re levels of training and capacity to be trained, misconduct and fatigue due to abuse of substances, drugs or lack of rest and physical exercise. What are your preventative maintenance regimes? What incentives are they for awarding effective habits and competencies?
    • Physical – What risk can be identified in the design and use of the home or facility or community?
      • Layout of the home, community, business.
      • The quality of the construction and materials used
      • What evaluation capacity and routes are provided?
      • Access to utilities, services, and transport facilities
      • What external focus or consideration can influence the supply and use of my home, community or business?

Business Sector entity

  • What are those risks that can impact my business?
  • Utility supply and services
  • Products supply or customer satisfaction
  • Defects in the construction of facility and materials used
  • Health and safety implications
  • Competence, levels of staff and capacity for training.
  • Embezzlement, fraud, malpractice
  • Succession planning – of a key person
  • Emergency planning and persons know what to do in time of emergency

We first examine some critical area re focusing on those risk that can impact us. Our next step will be to carefully seek to estimate the probability of those risks occurring and how often a history of probable impacts in the past can be used your location and physical or other implications taking into consideration. You next will want to analyse what potential human impact of each potential risk. A history of those related injuries, death or human suffering as a result of identified risk. You next would want to measure the potential impact to property, your damages etc., caused as result of the risk impact, what it costs to repair, replace or to set up temporary facilities when repairs are being completed. You will also want to determine the potential impact to your house or business. Consider potential loss while you are rebuilding or the loss of use of your house. What impact does all this loss have on you from a business perspective?

  • Your staff cannot work due to impact on facility.
  • Your customers cannot access your facility or your products and services.
  • Your company now cannot meet your contractual obligations to customers.
  • Your distribution is therefore disrupted.
  • The supply of materials and services to you is interrupted.
  • What imposition of fines, penalties or legal costs are associated with all of the above.

Questions you will have to consider –

  • Do you have the needed resources and capacity to respond to the level of impact?
  • What time factor will you be fully operational again, what will it all cost you?
  • What mutual aid agreements can be arranged both short and medium term.
  • Will you retrain staff to latest technological improvements while you are in reconstruction phase so as to hold on to current staff so that you can reopen sooner with a competent and experienced staff, instead of having to start all over again.

Good you have assessed the potential risk, and you have assigned their priority based on the urgency and the potential or probability to impact. You now need to take appropriate action to reduce or alleviate the risk. There are four strategies used when selecting and utilizing basic management tools. You may:

  1. Assume the risk – You have decided to bear the financial burden of that impact. You are however best advised to only use this course of action only after you have carefully assessed all studies, costs and any benefits.
  2. Avoid the risk – You mitigated and prepared for those potential risks, therefore creating high resilience to those risks. You have identified the risk and have taken all preventative solutions to remove that risk.
  3. Reduce the risk – You may not be able to entirely remove all risk, but you can take all necessary steps to significantly reduce the consequences or impact of that risk.
  4. Shift the risk – Where you have taken out an appropriate insurance policy, you have shifted the risk to that insurance company. When you draft contracts with your suppliers that require them to have for example liability insurance you have shifted the risk to your suppliers and their insurance company.

In conclusion don’t waste time hoping that the risk will go away for it will not. Therefore it’s imperative that you determine that potential risk of impact, and the action to be taken to shift, avoid, reduce or assume.