COVID-19 creates a perfect storm for the extreme weather season

weather

(Max LaRochelle, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: John Scott, Head of Sustainability Risk, Zurich Insurance Group


  • COVID-19 will hamper preparations for and responses to extreme weather events this year.
  • Even a relatively small natural hazard event will place disproportionate stress on already overstretched systems.
  • Agility will be key to resilience. Here’s a five-step strategy to help businesses prepare themselves.

For many, June was a time to rejoice at the start of summer. But for a large number of communities around the world, it signified the beginning of a potentially deadly period of hurricanes and monsoons, droughts and heatwaves.

Over the next six months, these communities will undergo an annual ritual of monitoring weather forecasts and satellite images of cyclones and other extreme weather phenomena.

But this year they will have to contend with the added challenge and distraction of a global pandemic. And with stretched resources and stressed supply-chains, it will likely hamper their preparations and any post-event response.

The unexpected outbreak of COVID-19 has compromised critical infrastructure, including emergency and health services, and left societies, industries and governments overwhelmed.

This all means a relatively small natural hazard event could place disproportionate stress on an already-stressed system. Preparation is more important than ever.

A five-step planning approach

As set out in Zurich’s whitepaper, Managing the impacts of climate change: risk management responses – second edition, there are five recommended preparation steps for businesses to take.

Pay now, save later
Pay now, save later
Image: Zurich

Step one is to identify your broad business and strategic risks. This requires a detailed analysis of the entire business’s operations, such as understanding major revenue streams, and the value chains of the network.

During the Thai floods in 2011, vulnerability was exposed at a regional level when the wider world realised that Thailand is a major supplier of microchips. Lower-tier suppliers were abruptly impacted, which left other businesses unable to continue their operations.

It highlighted the importance of businesses understanding every level of their operations and the need to treat low probability, high-impact events with the same level of risk management rigour as high-frequency events.

Step two requires a more granular approach by planning at each business location or site. This includes defining an emergency response team, identifying local authorities responsible for monitoring events, and determining the critical points of local value (local infrastructure and utilities) and supply chains.

Step three is preparing a location when an event is imminent and getting the assigned people onsite to ensure a safe shutdown of operations. But COVID-19 will make this step more demanding.

Procuring items such as sandbags to manage flooding and assembling a human workforce to undertake preparation is going to be a lot more difficult due to supply-chain disruption and a fear of contamination. Business owners who temporarily shuttered their facilities during lockdowns, meanwhile, may be unable to adequately prepare their buildings to repel the damaging wind and water of an approaching storm.

Step four guides businesses through a location response plan. Again, COVID-19 adds another layer of complexity, particularly when it comes to evacuation. Take Cyclone Amphan, for example. When it unleashed extreme winds, flooding and storm surge on the Rohingya refugees and other vulnerable communities in the Bay of Bengal, people naturally gathered on higher ground. But they walked into another potential hazard: crowded relief centres, which are a breeding ground for COVID-19.

Step five deals with location recovery. But in the current situation, this could be the most challenging.

Emergency workers, contractors, vendors and insurance professionals will need to coordinate with property owners and each other to avoid coming into close physical contact and potentially spreading COVID-19.

And will there be enough personal protective equipment (PPE) for everyone? Will travel restrictions prevent essential personnel from making the trip? Will there be enough lodging for everyone? And how will efforts to clean, repair and rebuild damaged property be conducted?

This year’s season of extreme weather is already underway, requiring businesses to act now. But it’s not too late to re-evaluate the first steps of the five-step strategy as the situation is constantly evolving. What organizations need to do is to learn how to be more agile in these kinds of situations. We’re nowhere near the end of the COVID-19 crisis, so it’s never too late to start revamping and revising your strategy.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Here’s how tech can help governments fight corruption

Khashoggi trial in Saudi Arabia falls short of independent, international probe needed: UN rights chief

Mobile technology saving lives: Changing healthcare systems with simple technology solutions

Tuesday’s Daily Brief: Venezuela-Colombia baby breakthrough, Italy piles on rescue boat pressure, States must combat hate, Kashmir rights latest and a musical plea to combat CAR hunger

Climate change will force us to redefine economic growth

This AI can predict your personality just by looking at your eyes

Northern Ireland: Parliament wants to secure post-Brexit regional funding

UN launches Facebook Messenger-powered bot to take on climate change

Keeping cool in the face of climate change

‘Favour dialogue’ over violence, UN chief urges all parties following clashes in Mali’s capital

Building climate resilience and peace, go hand in hand for Africa’s Sahel – UN forum

Being blinded by labels stops social change. Art helps us see a better future

Here’s why upskilling is crucial to drive the post-COVID recovery

UN, African Union make significant joint commitment to global health

Protecting refugees in Europe: UNHCR calls for a ‘year of change’

Yemen: UN envoy asks Security Council for more support ‘to move back’ to the negotiating table

Is the EU denying its social character favouring a banking conglomerate?

UN rights chief Bachelet appeals for dialogue in Sudan amid reports ‘70 killed’ in demonstrations

How the US should react to the pandemic, according to Bill Gates

One million facing food shortages, nutrition crisis after Mozambique cyclones: UNICEF

4 ways Africa can prepare its youth for the digital economy

UN agencies launch emergency plan for millions of Venezuelan refugees and migrants

Do doctors need to know their patients’ sexual orientation and gender identity?

The next 48 hours may change the European Union

The UK referendum has already damaged Europe: even a ‘remain’ result is not without cost to Britain and the EU

Mali facing ‘alarming’ rise in rights violations, warns UN expert

A European Discovers China: 3 First Impressions

5 things to know about African migration

MWC 2016 LIVE: GTI shifts to phase two – 5G – after hitting milestones

If we want to solve climate change, water governance is our blueprint

Minsk “ceasefire” leaves more doubts than safety, with EU already planning steps further

Trade: First year of the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement shows growth in EU exports

Electronic Cigarettes: Are they really as safe as we think?

UN and African Union in ‘common battle’ for development and climate change financing

Parallel downfalls of Merkel and Deutsche Bank threaten Germany and Europe

For video game addiction, now read official ‘gaming disorder’: World Health Organization

A new proposal breaks the stalemate over the Banking Union

To Brexit, or not to Brexit…rather not: 10 Downing Street, London

AI can be a game-changer for the world’s forests. Here’s how

What young people can teach world leaders about mental health in 2020

How can you or your organization support the Hour of Pride initiative?

Why do humanitarian crises disproportionately affect women?

Russia and the West to partition Ukraine?

Uzbekistan wins its long fight against malaria, as global rates continue to rise

Clean air is good for business

These are the world’s 20 most dynamic cities

Making the most of the Sustainable Development Goal 3: its overlooked role in medical education

Capital transaction tax on Ecofin table

International Women’s Day 2019: more equality, but change is too slow

An all-out fight for the EU budget

World Digital Media Awards winners announced at WNMC.19 in Glasgow, in association with The European Sting

Millennials (and Gen X) – Here are the steps you should take to secure your financial future

Forget GDP – for the 21st century we need a modern growth measure

David Attenborough’s worried about this ocean threat – and it’s not plastic

Is this the way to finally beat corruption?

80 adolescents a day will still die of AIDS by 2030, despite slowdown in epidemic

UN ceasefire monitoring chief tours Yemeni port of Hudaydah

DR Congo elections: ‘historic opportunity’ for ‘peaceful transfer of power’ says Security Council

Consumers’ rights against defective digital content agreed by EU lawmakers

Parliament mobilised to channel EU funds to those affected by Coronavirus pandemic

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s