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Volume 30, Issue 4

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Monday, 25 September 2017 15:59

Managing Risk During a Global Crisis

Is Your Company Prepared for a Pandemic?

Recent natural disasters such as Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have undoubtedly sparked a renewed interest in continuity planning among many business leaders. When compared with even large-scale weather events, however, a global crisis – particularly a pandemic – is exceedingly difficult to plan for. This article outlines risk mitigation strategies and steps companies can take to ensure business continuity in the event of a pandemic.

Every flu season, public health experts speculate about the likelihood of a future global pandemic and its possible costs to lives and livelihoods. No one doubts those costs will be high. In recent years, outbreaks of highly infectious diseases, though short of pandemic levels, have taken billions of dollars from the global economy and caused untold misery.

For example, the World Bank projected losses of $3.5 billion in Latin America and the Caribbean due to the 2016 Zika virus. The 2014 Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone cost those countries an estimated $2.8 billion in overall economic impact through 2015. A study by scholars at Korea University and the Australian National University roughly estimated the global economic impact of the 2003 SARS epidemic at $40 billion.

While public health officials and medical professionals work to understand how to prevent or contain pandemics to save lives, less attention has been paid to containing the economic risks. A 2016 report by the National Academy of Medicine’s Commission on a Global Health Risk Framework for the Future estimates that an outbreak on the scale of the 1918 influenza pandemic would cost the global economy as much as $60 billion a year. Despite this and other frightening estimates, businesses today are unprepared for the revenue losses that will result from the disruption of commerce during a global or even a regional disease outbreak.