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 Milestone

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

I accidentally went viral on TikTok. I learned we failed our youngest generation.

“The Belt and Road Initiative aims to promote peace, development and stability”, Ambassador Zhang of the Chinese Mission to EU highlights from European Business Summit 2018

Our tourism system is broken – time to customize

Dozens of children at risk as clashes in Hudaydah near hospital – UNICEF

Can autonomous cars make traffic jams a thing of the past?

UN chief sends condolences to families of Malawi flood victims

Trade in fake Italian goods costs economy billions of euros

UN envoy ‘encouraged’ by latest talks on avoiding ‘worst-case scenario’ in Syria’s Idlib

5 things to know about the Western Balkans

Countries must make teaching profession more financially and intellectually attractive

Will Brexit shatter the EU or is it still too early to predict?

MEPs commend Ukraine‘s reform efforts and denounce Russian aggression

Budget MEPs approve €104.2 m in EU aid to Greece, Spain, France and Portugal

Containers at the port of Tokyo. (Copyright: European Union, 2016. Source: EC - Audiovisual Service. Photo: Haruyoshi Yamaguchi)

EU cuts fast-track free trade deals with Japan and Singapore and leads the trade scene

Telemedicine and the Brazilian reality

Don’t take African generosity towards refugees for granted, says UN refugee chief

Brexiteer May gets lip-service from Trump and Turkish promises from Erdogan

UNICEF delivers medical supplies to Gaza in wake of deadly protests

New York high school students are getting free water bottles to cut plastic waste

EU: All economic indicators in free fall

8 amazing facts to help you understand China today

Denmark plans ‘Silicon Valley’ on 9 artificial islands off Copenhagen

Deal on digitalisation of access to justice will benefit citizens

The 28 EU leaders show contempt for the European Elections results

First-ever EU defence industry fund to finance joint development of capabilities

Brexit negotiations: back to square one, tougher words, no good faith

Mario Draghi quizzed for last time by Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee

Antimicrobial resistance: how can an intersectoral approach between society and healthcare professionals be developed and applied?

EU Leaders’ meeting in Sofia: Completing a trusted Digital Single Market for the benefit of all

Who will secure Lithuania?

UN condemns Syrian ‘war on children’ as up to 30 reportedly killed in clashes

Number of MEPs to be reduced after EU elections in 2019

How cities are failing to be inclusive – and what they can do about it

Coronavirus: Commission welcomes Parliament’s quick green light for proposed new resources to protect lives and livelihoods

Thursday’s Daily Brief: Poverty report reveals ‘vast inequalities’, measles compounds DRC Ebola woes, Guterres visits Mozambique, Bangladesh update, freedom of expression online

Japan’s holiest shrine is pulled down and rebuilt every 20 years – on purpose

MasterCard at European Business Summit 2015: A focus on innovation will drive inclusive economic growth for Europe

Parliament toughens its position on banking union

Education critical to ensure future of forests, and reverse their destruction

Sustainable Development Goals: making the world a better place

“China is the only BRICS country to have either met or possibly slightly surpassed my expectations”, BRICS inventor Jim O’ Neil from Switzerland; the Sting reports live from World Economic Forum 2015 in Davos

The future of international election observation missions

EU-US resume trade negotiations under the spell of NSA surveillance

Ukraine: Temperatures plunge amid rising humanitarian needs

Russia must urgently step up fight against foreign bribery

Bayer’s cross at night (Copyright: Bayer AG)

The EU clears Bayer-Monsanto merger amid wide competition and environmental concerns

Bank resolutions to remain a politically influenced affair

Asymptomatic, pre-symptomatic, symptomatic: what is the difference?

This AI trash can is designed to stop you wasting food

To hope or doubt? The state of women’s progress in the world

EU, Canada and China co-host international meeting on climate cooperation and a sustainable economic recovery

‘Stand united against anti-Muslim hatred’ urges Guterres, after mosque shootings in New Zealand leave 49 dead

The ocean is teeming with microplastic – a million times more than we thought, suggests new research

UN commission agrees roadmap on ensuring women’s social protection, mobility, safety, and access to economic opportunities

South Africa’s economy in 5 charts

Four things the UN chief wants world leaders to know, at key COP24 climate conference opening

Betazone: The Beauty of Inclusion

5 ways to make your organization a great sustainability partner

“Move fast, build to last: Europe’s new generation” – op-ed by Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission

Why we need a Paris Agreement for nature

More Stings?

Advertising

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