Why Mt Agung could be more than a holiday disruption.

Over the past few months, volcanic eruptions throughout Indonesia have made the news for the disruption to human life in Indonesia and the inconvenience caused by airlines cancelling flights to and from Bali. The current eruptions have been accompanied by travel insurance companies taking a clear risk leadership position, withdrawing coverage to people insisting on travelling into an area being impacted by an active volcano.

But what if the real problems are yet to come?

Volcanic eruption and its impact on modern life is not a big consideration in most business risk statements. Australia has been mainly free of the effects of volcanic eruption for most recorded history but we don’t have to look far to see how we could be significantly impacted by a regional volcano undergoing an explosive eruption.

In May 1980, Mt St Helens in Washington State ejected “about 0.3 cubic mile of uncompacted ash” (USGS) resulting in the loss of 57 lives and more than 200 homes, as well as damage to 185 miles of highways and roads. Over 1000 flights were affected while everyday lifelines – electricity, sewage and fresh water – were disrupted in Washington State.

In 2010, Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull Volcano threw Atlantic and European air travel into chaos when it pumped huge volumes of ash directly into a very stable jet stream, which sent the volcanic debris across Europe and the UK.

So, what does this mean for business in Australia? 

Our recent experience is of small eruptions stopping Australians travelling to and from Bali, beyond that it is limited. But what if Mt Agung, Mt Butur or any of the 125 other active volcanos in Indonesia erupt with the ferocity of Krakatoa in 1883

That eruption fired ash an estimated 80km into the atmosphere, dropped average global temperatures by around 1.2 degrees. While the explosion itself, along with tsunamis, pyroclastic flows, food production loss and contamination of fresh water probably killed 36,000 people.

We don’t really know what the effect of such a massive disruption could be to life in Australia. The obvious is the immediate loss of any international jet travel through the ash cloud, but what would it do to shipping, electricity and international communications (including to cloud computing services that are so reliant on the international undersea cable network)?

Effective planning means you need to think about the most likely disruptions first; but remember to consider less likely, potentially more damaging possibilities.  Talk to one of the Tigertail team about how to test your emergency, crisis and continuity plans today.

With thanks to the US Geological Service and linked sources.

Mt. Agung, Amed, Bali

Mt. Agung, Amed, Bali

Fraud: When public, customer and community service loses out to self service

When crises unfold, poorly planned and untested response operations will stress any organisation. Fraud, corruption and malfeasance can be substantial risks during times of disruption.

While fraud losses have greatest impact on smaller organisations (often threatening existential risks to finances or reputation), even companies with mature identification and investigation capabilities are not immune.

Some of the worst examples have occurred most brazenly within the top tiers of large, established organisations. According to the Report to the Nations on Occupational Fraud and Abuse – 2016 Global Fraud Study, the typical organisation loses 5% of revenues in a given year as a result of fraud. And when owners or executives commit fraud the median damage increases tenfold.

Increasingly not-for-profit organisations have been place under the corruption spotlight. Risk amongst these organisations is higher partly due to less stringent reporting rules, lower accountability, and limited controls and oversight (especially in developing countries).

Which brings us to the recent Red Cross admission, “that millions of dollars meant for fighting the deadly outbreak of Ebola in west Africa were siphoned off by its own staff.”

It’s an example of untested channels and systems being built and operated with little planning and almost no testing. And while the Red Cross has “committed to holding all those involved in any form of fraud to account”, it’s too little too late. How many lives could have been saved if that money had gone where it needed to go?

Closer to our home, incidents of fraud in NSW have increased steadily since comparable records began in 1995. And all three levels of Australian government have experienced fraud or corruption within their own ranks over the last few years.

As corruption is demonstrably increasing across Australian businesses and governments (and can even happen to the Red Cross!), organisations without a plan for reducing corruption risk during times of crisis are simply asking for trouble.

While the specifics of the Ebola outbreak could not have been predicted, a massive scale crisis in western Africa could have reasonably been envisaged. Responsible planning for the immediate roll out of new operational channels and systems should remain ongoing for all organisations. Crucially, training and drilling these plans regularly reduces the likelihood of corruption during an emergency or crisis response.

Tigertail can help your organisation with crisis planning and training, including systems of communication, accountability and reliability.


A tissue, a tissue. We all fall down...

Recent false reports about the quality of this Australian winter’s flu vaccines again brought to light the fact it’s potentially been the worst year for flu on record. Fake news aside, pandemic preparedness is important for societies, businesses, governments and families.

Unlike a common cold, the flu can be debilitating and dangerous. Symptoms such as fever, sore throat and muscle aches develop suddenly and normally last about a week. In some cases, severe illness and complications such as pneumonia and bronchitis can develop, which can result in hospitalisation and even death.

The flu can be especially dangerous for elderly people, pregnant women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and very young children as well as for people with underlying medical conditions. If you are in one of these groups, you should discuss vaccination with your GP.

Each year as winter approaches, Australians are offered a flu vaccine based on the virus that has been circulating in the northern hemisphere over their winter (our summer). Although the vaccine won’t definitely stop you from getting the flu it will significantly reduce your risk by between ten and sixty per cent.

The reason for bad flu years is the increased prevalence of a particular strain of Influenza A known as A/H3N2. Assistant Professor Ian M. Mackay and Katherine Arden explain:

“H3N2 is a more changeable beast than the other flu viruses. New variants can even emerge within a season, possibly replacing older variants as the season progresses.”

Businesses can be badly affected by the flu and should take precautions to minimise its impact:

  • Encourage staff to discuss vaccination with their GP
  • Encourage staff to stay at home at the first signs of a cold
  • Consider work from home policies to minimise spread of any viruses
  • Educate staff in cough hygiene

Businesses should have a prepared pandemic plan. This includes ensuring your business continuity plan covers concurrent absence of up to 30% of your staff.

Further information is available from the Department of Health.


The beauty and terror of Australian weather

“I love a sunburnt country, 
A land of sweeping plains, 
Of ragged mountain ranges, 
Of droughts and flooding rains. 
I love her far horizons, 
I love her jewel-sea, 

Her beauty and her terror
The wide brown land for me!”

From My Country by Dorothea Mackellar

Summer weather risks are widespread across our great southern continent. Bushfires, drought, severe storms and tropical cyclones can disrupt communities and businesses in regional, rural and remote Australia. Cities are also vulnerable to risks including too much water, too little water, extreme heat, severe storms, bushfire on the urban fringe and infrastructure failures such as power, water, gas and telecommunications.

Bushfires often receive the lion’s share of media coverage, which is understandable as they can arise quickly and sometimes involve large loss of life. And the seemingly inbuilt fascination humans have with fire keeps this threat front of mind.

However, floods, severe storms, hailstorms, earthquakes and cyclones are, in many ways, more destructive than bushfires each summer. Recent data suggests most insured building losses are spread across the range of severe weather categories. While in terms of fatalities, extreme heat is responsible for 55% of natural hazard deaths, followed by tropical cyclone (15.6), flood (14.8%), bush/grassfire (10.5%), landslide and lightning (1% each) with other storm types plus earthquake totalling just over 2%. Uninsured (or uninsurable) losses are largely due to flooding and are significantly higher than insured losses. 

All this means that natural hazards mitigation must cover a grouping of those events most likely in your location. Research, analysis and advice is vital to determine and rank which hazards your family or business should be focused on.

For regular weather updates, the Bureau of Meteorology will keep you across relevant information for your area. In a time of crisis you can keep on top of important information at your local ABC radio station, Twitter (@ABCemergency), ABC emergency website and apps such as EmergencyAUS and Fires Near Me.  In addition, each state and territory has its own emergency management portal:  ACT, NSW, NT, Qld, SA, Tas, Vic, WA.

Families and businesses can prepare for all these hazards. Extensive guides are available from emergency services for individual hazards in each state and territory. The Red Cross has a national all-hazard disaster preparedness guide for families.  You can also visit the fire agency and State Emergency Service websites in your state or territory for specific information about fires, storms (including cyclones) and floods.

The most important thing is to spend time discussing your options before the crisis emerges. Families and businesses should have a plan to follow when disaster strikes. Waiting until severe weather strikes to consider evacuation, asset protection and other factors can end in disaster.

Businesses need to understand their vulnerabilities and how key suppliers and customers might be affected by natural disasters. Tigertail helps businesses assess their key risk areas, build effective plans for times of crisis and runs training workshops to get the whole team up to speed.

The federal government has developed a template to help organisations prepare for all weather related risks this summer. Working with Tigertail, your business can understand, complete and improve upon this template. Crisis preparedness improves resilience in supply and delivery chains, flexibility in employment relations and companywide efficiencies.

Summer is a time for all Australians to relax. Our whole year is seemingly spent getting ready for those few hot months where most of us slow down and enjoy some quality family time. Whether you’re at the beach, in the bush or in town, you’ll enjoy this time of year even more if your family and/or business is prepared for anything our sometimes-harsh country can dish out.