Emergency Management Expert Opens Webinar Special Lecture Series
Subject matter expert in emergency management Mr. Jose Areekadan presented the first in a series of special video lectures broadcast over Skype to ICMS students on 26 February 2014. Mr. Areekadan is a member of International Advanced Education Consultants (IAEC), a team of disaster management experts from Canada.
Mr. Areekadan used case studies from his own work to present realistic disaster management scenarios from the field, while also putting business disaster preparedness at the forefront. He commented that the main goal for a business is to maintain minimum services during a disaster and to restore normal services as soon as possible. In the context of businesses, disaster exists on a spectrum from large-scale to small-scale. To clarify further, a small interruption of business services can have just as detrimental an effect as a natural disaster, having the potential to cause major disruptions to services and placing vulnerable people at risk.
The first case study Mr. Areekadan presented was from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, where, in 2006, an Israel Defence Forces (IDF) aircraft missile attack targeted a bridge with the intention of damaging infrastructure and disrupting terrorist activities. In comparison, IT related disasters can be just as disabling to business activities; viruses, hacking, and even death of employees can lead to loss of information and ultimately the end of a business. Mr. Areekadan used the 2010 Polish Air Force crash as an example, when the Polish president, first lady, most of the political elite as well as senior military officers were all killed over Russian airspace. One way to mitigate this type of disaster is to travel in two groups, thus avoiding loss of key leadership, a procedure used by Western militaries.
Another case study given was that of explosion damage in Gaza City. In this instance, a school believed to be harbouring Hamas militants attacking the IDF suffered damage due to a rocket attack. A ban on the import of concrete meant a large hole remained in the school’s wall. Another example was the damage caused by bulldozing of schools in Area C of the West Bank, because such places are used by Hamas militants as hideouts.
Moving to another example in Afghanistan, Mr. Areekadan cited the Dahla Dam in Kandahar, situated right in the Taliban heartland. Poor desert farmers rely on it to irrigate their land, however it does not hold enough water to get all farmers through the dry summers. Although repairs to this dam were funded by the Canadian government, their withdrawal from Afghanistan and the intimidation of local workers by Taliban militants has left the project in an unfinished state, causing a water shortage crisis and leaving the farmers and their families vulnerable.
Mr. Areekadan impressed that, as seen in the examples above, the most vulnerable populations (including children, the elderly, the poor and the infirm) are always affected by disasters the most. Mr. Areekadan also categorized those affected by disasters as internal and external. For example, internally, employees and their families - such as first responders - are known to suffer from stress and stress-related health issues due to their experiences in life-threatening situations. Customers, suppliers and competitors - on the other hand - comprise external people affected by a business-related disaster. For example, a disruption can occur to a supply chain, which can lead to competitors taking advantage and hiking up prices.
Regarding disaster aid, Mr. Areekadan spoke about the roles of the UN and NGOs, and raised the important issue of coordination between these organizations. Remarking "coordination is key", he felt that this will be the greatest challenge of all in disaster management. Organizations may have competing interests, which can lead to them working against rather than with each other. Thus, it is critical to manage the coordination of NGOs and requires a lot of professional skill in the field of emergency management. This, he said, only comes with a lot of practice and experience in the field.
To close, Mr. Areekadan spoke about the importance of a business continuity plan, expressing the need for a proactive approach and a broad, long-term view. Avoidance of risk and planning for when disasters strike are fundamental aspects of such a plan.
The next lecture in the series by IAEC experts will take an infrastructure protection and security point of view, using the case study of the Fukushima nuclear power plant which was hit by a devastating tsunami in 2011.
Mr. Arakeeden is a Captain in the Canadian Army. He has been a consultant for UNICEF, where he provided technical and operational support in Gaza and the West Bank to respond to and coordinate emergency education. He was selected to work in the Afghan National Army Security Forces as part of NATO ISAF in Kandahar. He has also lectured at Moscow University, Harbin University (China), University College (Bahrain) and at present is on the faculty at the Royal Military College of Canada.
For further information, please visit www.iaec.vpweb.ca