In the wake of a natural disaster, about a quarter of businesses never reopen. Whether due to primary concerns like a warehouse flooding, secondary complications like supply chain disruption, or indirect consequences like transportation shutdown that prevents employees from getting to work, there are a broad range of risks that can severely impact any business in the wake of a catastrophe that must be planned for.

Planning and securing against natural disaster risks can be daunting and exceptionally expensive, but researchers have found that every dollar invested in preparedness can prevent $7 of disaster-related economic losses. Check out more of the questions to ask and ways to mitigate the risk of natural disasters for your organization with this infographic from Boston University’s Metropolitan College Graduate Programs in Management:

Survive a Natural Disaster

 

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Updated Wednesday, 9:00 a.m.

A train hauling North Dakota Bakken shale oil derailed on Monday in Lynchburg, West Virginia, igniting several tank cars, burning down a house and prompting the shut-down of water-treatment plants, authorities said. At least one tanker from the 109-car CSX train toppled into the Kanawha River south of Charleston and was leaking crude oil.

About, 2,400 residents around Adena Village, West Virginia, were evacuated as a precaution, the Charleston Gazette reported. Emergency shelters were set up at a local school and recreation center.

It was the second derailment in a year along the same CSX line, according to Reuters. A similar incident in Lynchburg, Virginia, last April involved a train that was also headed to Plains All American Pipelines LP’s oil depot in Yorktown, Virginia.

The train was hauling newer CPC 1232 model tank cars rather than older versions widely criticized for being prone to puncture. The recommended cars have safety features that include half-inch-thick steel shields on the sides to prevent splitting if they are overturned.

With production on the rise in North America, oil companies are increasingly challenged with finding ways to transport their product. Pipeline networks do not yet have the capacity or flexibility to handle the job, so oil companies have relied on railroads to fill the gap. In 2013, rail shipments of crude oil in the United States skyrocketed, with 400,000 carloads transported compared to 4,729 in 2006, according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

CSX said in a statement on Tuesday:

Overnight, CSX personnel and agencies continued their assessment of the derailment scene to verify the number of rail cars involved and the extent of the potential environmental impact. CSX estimates that approximately 25 tank cars derailed and 20 cars were involved in subsequent fires; the fires around the rail cars will be allowed to burn out. When safe to do so, CSX and its experts will begin transferring oil from the damaged cars to other tanks and those tanks subsequently removed from the site. Initial assessments have confirmed that several of the cars appear to be ruptured or leaking from valves.

No rail cars entered the Kanawha River in this incident.

CSX teams continue working to deploy environmental protective and monitoring measures on land, air and in the Kanawha River as well as a creek near the company’s tracks. The company also is in contact with public officials and investigative agencies to address their needs.

Approximately 100-125 residents of homes near the derailment site remain evacuated at this time. CSX is working with the Red Cross and other relief organizations to address residents’ needs, taking into account winter storm conditions. The company opened a Community Outreach Center Tuesday, February 17, at 8 a.m.; the center will remain open until every day 8 p.m. EST or later if needed. CSX has secured a number of hotel rooms for displaced residents and is assisting them in relocating from evacuation centers to the hotels.

CSX said on Monday that it has removed the non-derailed cars from the scene of the derailment and efforts continue to re-rail the remaining cars. The company said it is cooperating fully with agencies in the investigation being led by the National Transportation Safety Board.

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A bill that would give companies in Tennessee a free market alternative to state-mandated workers compensation insurance was introduced yesterday by Sen. Mark Green (R-Clarksville), a physician and vice-chair of the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee, and Rep. Jeremy Durham (R-Franklin), House Majority Whip.

The Tennessee Option draws from the best practices of Texas nonsubscription and the Oklahoma Option, according to the Association for Responsible Alternatives to Workers’ Compensation (ARAWC). The Option is designed to provide Tennessee employers an alternative for funding and responding to occupational injuries while still protecting employees and their families. The key components are employee accountability, medical management, employee-employer engagement, and free-market competition.

“The core focus of the Tennessee Option is to help injured employees get back to work faster,” Sen. Green said in a statement. “Making that happen requires good benefits, strong communication, and will lead to higher employee satisfaction. An Option will also give job creators a way to save more than 50% on workers’ comp costs, so they can invest in growth and more employees.”

ARAWC spokesman, Brent Buchanan told the Monitor that the bill has been in the works for about six months and the next step is a committee hearing. Because of its strong sponsorship, there is a good chance it will pass this legislative session, he said.

Janine Kral, president of ARAWC and vice president of risk management at Nordstrom said in a statement, ”The Tennessee Option is a local effort driven by the bill sponsors with the support of Tennessee employers and associations. ARAWC will serve as a resource to this local group that is focused on providing a free-market alternative to workers’ compensation insurance.”

Oklahoma passed Option legislation in 2013. Texas has allowed alternative injury benefit programs for more than 100 years, ARAWC said, adding that Texas employers using the Option have saved billions of dollars while increasing return-to-work rates.

According to ARAWC:

Private employers can elect the Tennessee Option. Current Tennessee law allows cities, counties and school districts to opt out of the workers compensation system and several have elected to do so. Tennessee law already exempts employers with less than five employees from the requirement to provide workers compensation insurance. The Tennessee Option legislation will not amend those current exemptions. The Option will not be available to construction or coal mining companies due to their unique industry requirements.

By removing various third parties from between the true stakeholders – employees and employers – the Tennessee Option will encourage more collaboration between the parties. At least a mandated level of benefits must be paid. Many Option employers will pay higher wage replacement benefits than workers’ compensation. The employer must prove that financial security is available to pay the benefits, and a guaranty fund will be established. Stringent appeal rights are included in the Option to provide employees due process. Due to disclosure requirements, employees in an Option will be more aware of their injury benefits and the processes for procuring them. And more employee accountability will lead to better medical outcomes, which is good for all parties.

 

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Jay Shaw IDCE

NEW ORLEANS—While it may seem counterintuitive at an event that also has an expo, one speaker at the International Disaster Conference today argues that a lot of the “preparedness” products on the market are not worth the price tag—and may even work against public safety.

According to the graduate research of disaster management expert and firefighter paramedic Jay Shaw, dikes and levies reduced people’s preparedness levels by 25% for all hazards including flooding. About three quarters of respondents in his research had experience with a major flood, and 75% felt prepared for a flood. Yet 65% felt unprepared for any other disaster, and 46% did not have any emergency kit, plan or supplies. The dikes in their town, Shaw found, led to a sense of security against flooding risk, and left many unaware of other risks and how to best prepare for them.

Nationally, a 2009 FEMA study found that 57% of people claim to be prepared for a disaster for 72 hours. Under further review, however, 70% of these individuals did not know the basic components of an emergency go-bag or emergency plan.

Amidst go bags, 72-hour disaster kits, car kits, evacuation kits, shelter in place kits, and disaster buckets, the consumer-facing market for emergency preparedness often just confuses the public, selling overlapping supplies and sometimes contradictory instructions.

“We are failing to get through to people,” Shaw said. “We need to stop telling people what to do and start showing them. A 72-hour preparedness message is not enough. It is a great idea to tell people to get prepared, but people are not doing it. And part of the problem is that there is no social stigma—it is still acceptable to be unprepared.”

Other top barriers to preparedness, according to Shaw, include:

  • Ignorance – “It won’t happen to me”
  • Risk perception is low
  • Hazard recognition is low
  • Cost
  • Vulnerable population
  • Confused about what to do
  • Capacity to cope is too high, due to a false sense of preparedness

Indeed, most people with resources consider a credit card all the emergency kit they need. “If you have to evacuate in the middle of the night, you’re going to take out the credit card and get a hotel room. If Ebola is coming, we’ll rent a cabin out by the lake and get out of town,” Shaw said.

Even those who do purchase basic pre-made kits are not improving capacity for resilience. “We are selling a sense of security, but if you’re opening it for the first time in an emergency, you have gained nothing to prepare for and understand the risks of a disaster and how to best make it through,” he said. “Buying all the kits for the hazards in my community would cost $2,600 and it would take up a 10-by-10 room in my basement. But I not be prepared because I would not know how to use them.”

Some of the best solutions may include:

  • Conducting comprehensive research on preparedness levels to understand why they are so low
  • Encouraging communities to engage in creative ways to finance local preparedness efforts and events
  • Using the soldiers we have—figure out what percent of duties we can take away to increase the prevention roles and education of police, fire, EMS and healthcare professionals
  • Developing and maintaining CERT teams, including members from prospective police, fire and EMS candidates, even offering the incentive of hours on the team for preferred application status
  • Shifting department and budgetary focus from response to preparedness
  • Creating train the trainer courses to build capacity across departments
  • Developing an international strategy on the contents of emergency kits, analyzing relevant risks and tailoring messaging on what it means to prepare for known risks and hazards
  • Aligning marketing strategies on the real risks and the best means of being prepared
  • Building relationships locally and lobbying colleges and universities for applied projects that offer real-world solutions to local risks

Other marketing can also greatly improve local preparedness. Encouraging programs at local schools and community groups and even naming or offering sponsorship on dikes and dams can increase awareness and incentivize discussion and around risk mitigation measures.

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