International Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Latin America and the Caribbean   

Newsletter ISDR Inform - Latin America and the Caribbean
Issue: 13/2006- 12/2006 - 11/2005 - 10/2005 - 9/2004 - 8/2003 - 7/2003 - 6/2002 - 5/2002 - 4/2001- 3/2001




Integrated risk managment in private enteprises:
a value added

The impact of many emergency situations is very serious on those private organizations that have not taken into account natural, man-made and technical disasters. They should be considered when assessing any existing type and level of hazard. Disasters have also damaged different industrial sectors, as well as the production of goods and services. For this reason, when facing their recovery, restoration or restructuring processes many of the affected companies should reflect on their future survival from a risk management perspective.

The application of this paradigm to the current corporate culture implies sustained interventions toward the mitigation of existing and potential risks. This process will influence in a positive manner the behavior and attitudes of those who constitute these organizations, guiding them in this manner toward their self-protection. Through these activities, private enterprises are not only promoting their own corporate identities, but also letting the general public know about the human aspects of their organizations and their respect for life.

Many of these companies have traditionally included offices, units or departments in charge of environmental and security issues, as well as the prevention of work-related risks. Their actions to address industrial safety, occupational health and environmental protection are taken by these units. In this context, most current national legal standards establish that actions should be taken to reduce accidents and diseases in the work place through the implementation of continuous control and mitigation measures. However, in many of these organizations, some natural and man-made hazards are not taken into consideration as the cause of numerous deaths, injuries, damage to their infrastructures and economic losses that could lead to their shut down. Thus, it is important to improve the traditional model of risk prevention in private enterprises and undertake new actions in the framework of sustainable development.

Private enterprises, -whether they be large, medium or small- must include in their risk maps, along with their financial, economic and work plans, any probability that events such as earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, landslides and volcanic eruptions might occur. They should also include hazards that result from human actions and technological activities, such as fires, explosions, attacks, sabotages, crimes, etc.

If a business is prepared to reduce disaster risks, then it will be able to apply all security and safety measures in compliance with current national legal standards.

An integrated risk management for the planning of any emergency situation in a more comprehensive manner will bring more benefits through synergetic actions aimed at reducing existing vulnerabilities.

Furthermore, decision making processes, the quality of products and services, investments, the maintenance of their infrastructure and inter-company relationships will improve as well. In this manner, corporate cultures will be able to raise awareness in a more preventive and committed manner, and the protection of lives and assets will lead to an increase in value-added services.

A company that promotes a proactive attitude that aims to reduce vulnerabilities also enriches and supports its social responsibilities. Executives, employees, shareholders, investors, providers, and the outside public will then contribute to strengthen a genuine culture of prevention, from the individual level to the community at large.

It is also important to consider some aspects of the strategic planning aimed at fostering precaution and prevention:

• Creation of a unit or office in charge of integrated risk management processes;
• Availability of all human, material and technical resources required;
• Legal aspects;
• Identification and classification of existing risks;
• Risk maps;
• Design and implementation of risk prevention and mitigation plans, as well as emergency and recovery strategies;
• Actions aimed at reducing physical and operational vulnerabilities;
• Prevention signs;
• Sustainable communication in the area of prevention;
• Training in emergency prevention and response;
• Inter-institutional relations; and,
• Relations with communities and the media.

Within national economies, private enterprises are considered a key actor that can broaden its relationships with world markets. For this reason, it is essential to reduce their vulnerabilities, in order to improve their overall performance.

New trade, industrial and management relationships place this type of organization in a global context of multiple hazards. Therefore, the strengthening of their roles through adequate risk management would better develop their leadership, emphasizing, along with sustainable development, the strengthening of their own projects, philosophy, mission and vision. In this manner, private enterprises will be perceived as active advocates for the protection of lives.

Gloria Bratschi,
Consultora internacional
gbrat@lanet.com.ar / gloria_bratschi2004@yahoo.com.ar