Improved emergency planning among businesses in the Asia-Pacific is needed to boost their ability to limit potential disruptions to commercial activity in the world’s most natural disaster-prone region.
Governments can play a critical role in facilitating the effective use of business continuity plans, noted APEC officials and disaster management experts during a two-day workshop on business continuity planning that concluded on Friday in Ha Noi.
"Many businesses are unprepared for the effects of natural disasters which can lead to ongoing disruptions, financial losses and even bankruptcy,” said Dr Nyguen Huu Phuc, Co-Chair of the APEC Emergency Preparedness Working Group.
“Regional supply chains are now so intertwined that a single incident such as a flood or an earthquake can affect production and trade across the entire Asia-Pacific," he added.
Over 70 percent of all natural disasters occur within APEC economies.
Among companies in the region which employ more than 300 people, nearly 70 percent have instituted or are preparing a business continuity plan to deal with a catastrophe, according to an APEC survey in 2012. But only 13 percent of smaller firms indicated that they have one in place. About half were unaware of the business continuity plan concept.
"Small businesses are the backbone of economies and communities in the APEC region," said Dr Li Wei-sen, who is also Co-Chair of the APEC Emergency Preparedness Working Group.
“When they are impacted by a disaster, the implications for people’s livelihoods are potentially severe.”
“Public efforts to raise awareness of business continuity planning benefits and development processes are critical to building the sector’s capacity to continue operations during an emergency. This can increase confidence in the region’s economies and even attract greater foreign investment,” Dr Li explained.
APEC members are examining ways to support this work. Some tactics include promotional campaigns and seminars, tools such as information websites and portable device applications, and possible training and funding outlets.
They are also developing a handbook to assist government agencies with the implementation of these measures. A draft outline was unveiled during the workshop. The final version will be issued before the end of this year.
The workshop, led by Australia, followed a one-day public symposium in Ha Noi on business continuity planning for local small and medium enterprises.