Businesses ill-prepared for natural disasters

Friday, May 10, 2013 11:58

Illustrative image.— VNS File Photo

HA NOI (Biz Hub)— Few Vietnamese enterprises have paid proper attention to handling natural disasters or preparing business continuity plans, putting themselves and the community at risk.

This was the opinion expressed in Ha Noi on Wednesday by the deputy head of the Water Resource Directorate, Nguyen Xuan Dieu.

He said that poor infrastructure and lack of precautionary measures made enterprises, especially small and middle sized ones, more vulnerable to catastrophes.

Dieu was speaking at a two-day workshop on business readiness in nations belonging to the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC), which ended yesterday.

He said that the problem was more serious as Viet Nam was one of the nations most vulnerable to climate change and extreme weather.

He added that Viet Nam had been promoting disaster resilience, in particular, through a bill on Natural Disaster Prevention and Control expected to be discussed by the National Assembly this month.

Dieu said he hoped for more engagement from the private sector. He said this meant being able to resume business and production soon after catastrophes.

This would ensure they could supply essential products and resources needed for community recovery.

"Under the proposed bill, enterprises will be encouraged to take out disaster insurance to reduce losses and fulfill their social responsibilities," he said.

Nick Barker, assistant director of Emergency Management Australia, said that resilient business contributed to the resilience of communities, the supply chain, national economy and regional and global economies.

Barker said that Business Continuity Planning (BCP) was a key to business resilience, enabling them to function well under stress, adapt better, become more self-reliant and reduce recovery time.

According to an APEC survey, only 23 per cent of 595 businesses surveyed in 18 economies had BCP and 37 per cent had never heard of the plan.

Major obstacles for building BCP were low awareness of managers and employees, lack of BCP information and expertise, lack of money and human resources.

About 13 per cent of those responding said public support systems helped them with funding, training, information and toolkits to develop the plan.

Takahiro Ono from the Asian Disaster Reduction Centre, Japan, said that strong public services, including supply of power, telecom and water were essential for disaster resilience.

He said companies needed to prepare a to-do list on what would be needed if their operations were disrupted for a week or more. This included what funding would be needed if operations stopped, the identification of materials and parts from each supplier, and the preparation of an emergency contact list of employees.

Leslie Williams, director of the APEC branch of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said that not every economy had the capacity to respond.

"Vietnamese business here need to think about BCP more seriously," he said.

Williams said both owners and employees had an equal interest in knowing how to protect a business.

Director of Ha Noi-based Viet Nam K&N limited Company Chu Thi Hong told Viet Nam News that as an air-compressor trader, her company had never thought about making its own plan to cope with national disasters.

However, she realised its importance after witnessing her customers suffer from flood losses that could have been prevented if precautionary measures had been taken.

She added it was more difficult for them to recover and return to normal production if they did not buy disaster insurance.

Hong noted that few enterprises thought about making prevention and preparation plans for natural disaster "maybe because of financial limitations". — VNS

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