A few years ago I was approached by a BBC journalist who wanted to speak to a professional ‘doom-monger’. I was a little put out, to be honest. But his programme turned out to be in praise of the unseen and unsung (often derided) people who prepare for disasters, even if their work, like the Second World War pill boxes across England, is never needed. In the last few days we have watched with horror and amazement the pictures from Japan, shocked by the appalling loss of life. This disaster follows close on the heels of the floods in Queensland and South America and the earthquake in New Zealand. Rarely has the calamitous power of nature been so graphically illustrated.
The usual response from our business continuity community to emergencies and disruption, for example, following the recent problems with snow, is to point out the shortfalls in the planning and to berate those affected for not being better prepared. And I do not doubt that there are many lessons to be learnt from these recent disasters. We might reflect on the knock-on effect of one disaster triggering another and the challenges of recovery when an entire infrastructure has been incapacitated.
However, I was struck by the relative lack of panic in Japan. As the earthquake struck, people sheltered in doorways or under desks, as they were supposed to. They understood what was happening and what to do. Emergency teams returning from New Zealand commented on how well organised the rescue and relief had been. Colleagues in Australia told me how their electricity companies had shut down power as the floods rose to avoid damage and were able to restore power as they receded. This was down to preparation.
So on this occasion, I simply want to pay tribute to those unseen and unsung people who had prepared for disaster, without whose work, the disaster and the loss of life would undoubtedly have been far, far worse.