Regional experts seek collaboration to mitigate disaster impact on businesses

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Regional experts seek collaboration to mitigate disaster impact on businesses

Friday, August 07, 2020

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — Regional telecommunications experts are calling for greater collaboration to mitigate the negative impact of disasters on businesses.

The request was made during a CARILEC-hosted Virtual Disaster and Risk Management Symposium, under the theme: “Creating Connections, Strengthening Communities”.

CANTO, which represents operators, organisations, companies and individuals in the regional ICT (telecommunications) sector, is of the view that the biggest challenges faced by businesses in the region are the health and safety of employees and customers as well as the economic downturn which results from a disaster.

Responding to the question of what a multi-agency response would look like, Heather Wallen-Bryan who chairs the CANTO Disaster Risk Management Committee, stated that there needs to be more mutual agreements and understandings among the various regional agencies.

Wallen-Bryan, who is also the senior manager for Business Continuity Management, Safety and Security at Communications and Entertainment provider, Flow Jamaica, stated, “we need to start looking at areas of vulnerabilities among electric and telecommunications companies. This is necessary in order to plan together and build resilience; pre-planning is of the essence.”

She further highlighted that, “all telecommunications companies, at the turn of the century were required to put in place Business Continuity Management plans and these have helped to prepare for impending risks.”

Wallen-Bryan's sentiments were shared by other participants on the panel.

Joanne Persad, programme manager, Preparedness and Response at CDEMA (Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency) noted, “adapting to 2020 challenges will be key. There is also a need for revised multi-sectoral coordination and an enhanced logistics operation for the region, including adapting of agency protocols.”

According to Dr Laura-Lee Boodram, Head, Vector Borne Diseases at the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), “maintaining the health and well-being of Caribbean people is of utmost importance and advanced planning is the only way to mitigate against the impact of disasters.”

The importance of water to the region amidst the COVID-19 experience was also highlighted by Ignatius Jean, the executive director of Caribbean Water and Sewage Association (CAWASA).

He noted that many plants in the region are not fully automated, and this, he said, creates some pressure on entities to maintain water supplies during the pandemic.

“There is definitely need for a more coordinated and cohesive approach to build resilience in our systems,” he added.

On the matter of limiting the negative impact and minimising recovery time during disasters, Persad thought it was important that each organisation has an understanding of its vulnerability and strength in order to determine those areas of its network in need of repairs.

“I encourage every institution to have a business continuity plan, a recovery plan and contingency plan while utilising the experiences to learn from the lessons of the past,” she said.

The organisations highlighted for greater collaboration include Caricom agencies, global UN partners, Non-Government Organisations, National Disaster Organisations as well as donors who play a critical role.

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