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Jun 29, 2017

How Businesses Can Survive Natural Disasters

As the first month of the hurricane season comes to a close and families and businesses count the daily cost of other kinds of natural disasters, one of the key questions for businesses is: are you prepared, not only for any disaster itself, but for continuing with business afterward?  More than twenty local Belizean businesses were joined by delegates from twelve member states of the Sistema Económico Latinoamericano y del Caribe (SELA) for a three-day workshop to work through the details of continuity of businesses following natural disasters. While no business is prepared to fail through its own fault or anyone else’s, News Five’s Aaron Humes found out that it never fails to be prepared.

 

Aaron Humes, Reporting

Conference facilitator Yves Davila told us that in planning for your business to survive a natural disaster, it is good to expect the unexpected.

 

Yves Davila

Yves Davila, SELA Consultant/Facilitator

“Basically, you need to be very careful because business continuity is not for all organizations, it’s for the most critical processes. For example, if you go to war you don’t protect the whole body, just the head and the heart. Same with business continuity: you don’t need to protect the administrative or other process; you may protect only one of them. So with a little part of your business protected, you need to move to alternate locations, because usually the disaster has an area which is affected and you must be able to recover, maybe, outside of the area. So your strategy [for] recovery should be aware that you may not have access to any of the restricted area because of the disaster; but if you need to keep moving your business, you need to be ready to have something else outside the area of the disaster.”

 

David Gonzalez of fruit exporter Diverse Development in the South explained that it’s not always a good idea to wait for outside assistance.

 

David Gonzalez

David Gonzalez, Operations Manager, Diverse Development

“When you talk about aid and relief from international sources and even from local sources, it’s mostly for the public and not for private sector. But there are certain things that we can do to make sure that we don’t depend solely on Government assistance in recovering our operations. For example you could say I have to wait until electricity comes back to open my doors – that is really bad, so you could easily make a small investment into a generator, which would allow you to open your doors quicker.”

 

Representing the Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce, Ser-Dylan Kowlessar, who manages their disaster preparedness program, speaks to the importance of planning ahead.

 

Ser-Dylan Kowlessar

Ser-Dylan Kowlessar, Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce

“Consider that these kinds of events don’t happen with any major set of warning all of the time; and even if we got a warning, we may not have the time to put things in place to protect all we have and protect our business. So just like insurance what you need to do is take it out – take out these plans, put these plans together. And if it doesn’t happen then fine; but if it does happen at least you’re protected. But if it doesn’t happen we tend to think, “oh, well, I’ve just wasted that money” – no, you don’t know, and there are even higher chances of different things happening. With climate change, with differences in technology, financial collapses that are taking place of new regulations required, so we need to put this in place, especially for small businesses.”

 

Belize agreed to host this conference with SELA and under the aegis of the Ministry of Trade, Investment and Commerce. BELTRAIDE’s Shari Williams says businesses will have a greater idea of how to move forward without succumbing to uncertainty.

 

Shari Williams

Shari Williams, Manager, Marketing and Information, BELTRAIDE

“We want all participants to take away from this the fact that one, they have to identify risk factors; and two, that they have to put some kind of planning in place – what happens in the event my business is faced with an adverse effect – what do we do? How do we implement? How do we move on? The overall goal today is that businesses walk away with an idea of how does my business continue when faced with a natural disaster. Continuity is the theme for today’s workshop.”

 

Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.

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