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Volume 32, Issue 3

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Monday, 18 May 2015 05:00

Different But The Same: A Look At Two Disasters

Written by  Vicki Thomas

Vicki-article-5-18-1Different But The Same: A Look At Two Disasters

Sometimes it’s challenging to keep up with everything that is going on…Sure this could sound like an excuse, but the reality is that business continuity is everywhere. The news, entertainment, day-to-day routines, the commute to work, the meal out, the school day - business continuity is present. It’s everywhere but nowhere.

The potentials for success and failure. The opportunity to communicate, plan and respond.

These can slip through the fingers of organizations so very quickly that they almost appear to be invisible and to have never happened.

To underscore this reality, this week’s column takes a snapshot look at two major disasters - one that is mostly forgotten and one that is still simmering on the consciousness (though failing to make front-page news).


In 2014 we wrote and talked a lot about Ebola. The impacts of this terrible disease has left lasting crevices in West Africa. The statistics on the death rate and the trickle-down impact of this most recent outbreak are shocking and really hard to fathom.

But, think back to the news coverage - it was slow to come, then it built with a steady rumble, peaking when Ebola made it’s way to North America and specifically in Texas, and then it seems like Ebola dropped off our radar…And while the World Health Organization has declared Liberia free from Ebola, the story is not over.

  • A nice-to-read article about Ebola
  • Liberia is slowly rebuilding: Desperately, the country is trying to rebuild just about everything, from its health and education systems to its economy and international image. Interestingly is the impact Ebola has had on faith and the Church in Liberia. This outbreak has rocked people’s beliefs - particularly due to the way many churches responded to Ebola, first branding it as just punishment by God and then by bringing sick and infected people into churches for worship (unfortunately, enabling the rapid spread of the disease due to the laying of hands).
  • Traditional funeral ceremonies in Guinea are wreaking havoc on treating and eradicating the disease.

This is just a snapshot of recent article about Ebola - but frankly, there isn’t much reporting going on. But from this from small sampling, you’ll see a trend here - the response plan still isn’t there. From the outset mistakes were made that are resulting in consequences today and will continue for months (perhaps years) to come. When will the case studies and analysis of the response to this Ebola outbreak happen? The question is - will there be a case study or analysis? Is this too out-of-sight out-of-mind? See the trend here, it happens, there is a delayed and then panicked response, and then we move on…. what happens next time?


The two recent earthquakes that shook Nepal, a 7.8 magnitude quake on April 25 and three weeks later a 7.4 magnitude quake hit - have left the country devastated. With 8,583 deaths, this is the largest disaster to ever strike the country. To compound the devastation and loss, the monsoon season is coming very quickly - putting the now homeless, jobless and stranded in even more horrifying circumstances.

The human reaction to the Nepal earthquakes has been one of shock and awe - with many people, aid organizations and governments stepping forward to do what they can. But this rebuild and ongoing rescue effort, is one that has hit so many barriers - travel restrictions, import issues, communication break-downs, and the plain reality that Nepal was a tough country to get around in before the earthquakes, and things have only gotten worse.

  • We don’t think much about our toilets here in North America. But in Nepal, having a modern toilet was a big step forward. This New York Times article looks at the impact the earthquake has had on the sanitation in rural Sindhupalchok district. We all now what happens when sanitation systems aren’t working properly - disease and the rampant spread of disease. Officials here are battling tradition and understanding when it comes to the benefits of toilets and disease. Saili, 25, of Selang, said that her 2-year-old son had died and that she had been buried up to her waist when her home, like every other in her village, collapsed. Now, she and her two surviving children live in a makeshift shelter of branches along with four other families. “We really need a tent and some food,she said. “A toilet? I don’t know. Not really.
  • Everest brings people from all over the world to Nepal. Entire industries and livelihoods have been built around people climbing up and down this fabled mountain. In recent years there have been discussions about the crowding and conditions on this mountain - with too many climbers and a trail of garbage and refuse left behind. Well, now for the first time in 41 years, Everest will be closed to climbers. Will this closure spur guiding companies to reassess how they do business?
  • What happens when an entire village is wiped out?

It is still early days in the disaster relief and recovery for Nepal, but sooner or later it’s going to happen…Questions, finger-pointing, and hand-wringing. The rebuild process for this country is so multi-faceted - do you rebuild exactly as existed prior to April 25 or do you build differently? What of tradition and community - how do you continue to foster and grow this with new buildings, villagees and infrastructure? Disease, particularly cholera is a bigger concern for the country now - what is going to happen? Nepal relied heavily on the tourist trade - will people still come and how to attract visitors?

Different But The Same

So what happens next? Do you think about the reactions and response in these two different but the same disasters and think about your organization? Sure, you’re not likely to have to deal with an Ebola outbreak - but what happens when the Norovirus rips through your small company or you lose a key employee to illness or injury? How about when your building is damaged and your forced to unexpectedly relocate? Yes, we’re all different but the same.