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Defining Resilience – Q&A with John Gawne, Managing Director of Resilient Services

Welcome to today’s special edition blog. My name is Natalya and I am the risk and regulatory analyst for Resilient Services. This week, I will be conducting an interview with John Gawne, discussing resilience and your business. For those of you who may not know him, John is the managing director of Resilient Services. He is an untapped source of knowledge in the emergency, risk and disaster management world, and has extensive experience working in both private and public sector roles. Thank you, John, for joining me today, it’s great to have you here. 

John: It’s a pleasure, thank you for having me.

To start off, how would you define resilience in terms of crisis and emergency management?  

John: Resilience is a business’ ability to avoid or absorb an emergency or crisis event. Absorption comes from identifying risks and implementing processes that prevent their occurrence. Absorbing a risk that may occur depends on the systems and processes that your business has in place which can then be used to manage the impacts that an emergency or crisis may have on a business, its employees and customers. 

So what tools would you use to measure a business’ resilience?

John: Business resilience can be broken down into four stages: prevention, preparedness, response and recovery. How well equipped a business is to handle each stage can help to determine a business’s overall resilience.  

  • Prevention is about understanding the possible risks that could prevent your business from delivering, and then mitigating such risks before they can create a problem. An example could be in the event of a power outage, the risk of losing power could be prevented by purchasing a generator prior to an outage. 
  • Preparedness involves having systems, processes and trained personnel that can be used to respond to an emergency or crisis event. These systems and processes must be put in place prior to a crisis, and any necessary training for staff must also be conducted prior. Refresher training sessions must also occur on a regular basis. 
  • Response is the stage involving an actual emergency or crisis, and it is the business’ ability to respond to an emergency, assess the issues, make it safe and stabilize the situation that determines how good of a response a business has. 
  • Recovery is the final process of returning to business as usual.

After the business is back to ‘business as usual’, the event is then placed into the emergency management cycle and the business will use the experience to prevent a recurrence by learning from any mistakes they made and improving their systems to better deal with a similar occurrence. 

Speaking of ‘business as usual’, could you elaborate more on the principle of business continuity and how important business continuity is to a business’ success? 

John: Business continuity is the key to a resilient business. The business continuity planning process orders the business’ deliverables from the most important to the least important. As per the above, the business continuity plan is utilized, and the recovery process places an emphasis on reinstating the most important operations first while working your way down to the least important. 

So when you are developing business continuity plans or performing after action reviews, what would you say are some key considerations that most businesses forget to address before a disruption occurs and brings it to light?  

John: Some organizations treat an emergency or crisis event as purely ‘bad luck’ as opposed to considering why it happened and how preparation and implementing risk mitigation strategies could have prevented the crisis, or at least, reduced its impact. Not using the event as a learning curve also makes a business suspectable to repeats of similar issues in the future. Also, usually most businesses are operational during a crisis, and will excel at resuming any business processes they had to temporarily pause. The biggest issue can come from their neglect to inform the business’ executives of the issues, or to manage the customers, other stakeholders and the media effectively.

Now it wouldn’t be 2022 if I didn’t ask you a pandemic related question, so here it is. How do you think this year will affect businesses and their resilience? Is the pandemic still unpredictable in nature, or do you think businesses are more equipped than before to handle covid-related disruptions?   

John: Generally, COVID-related management is mandated by the government, and businesses will continue to follow the latest guidelines relating to COVID-safe practices. Where our clients have discovered themselves in a crisis has been when another emergency occurs, such as a freak weather event, a power outage or reduced staff availability and supply shortages, which on their own may not have been overly disruptive, but when combined with the impacts of the pandemic, have led to more crucial issues for businesses to deal with. I think we can expect to see more of these same challenges in the near future, and now is a great time for businesses to reflect on the events of the last two years and consider what they could have done differently during times of outbreaks and lockdowns to ensure better outcomes. Once this is discovered, it’s all about developing systems and processes to assist with these unpredictable changes, and taking the opportunity to train your staff and executives so that your entire team is up to date and knows what to do amid these crises. 

 Thank you so much for joining me today John! Thank you for that insightful and informative discussion!

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