Drought – a warning for improved resilience
Successive dry winters have left the Southern half of the UK with little water – for London and the South East we have officially been in a drought for many weeks. News stories suggest this drought, which appears to be spreading, could last up until Christmas.
Despite the warnings, a hosepipe ban and public awareness campaigns to save water you would think on driving through our cities that nothing much has changed. I was astonished at the weekend to see a queue outside my local car wash – I forgot how important it is to look your best whilst driving 90mph down the M40.
It is quite typical though of our response to these sorts of events – perhaps it’s a feeling the issue does not apply to them, or that it will be alright now we have had a few days of heavy showers. I recall the “swine flu” parties organised to deliberately infect children to give them immunity to the virus – this despite Government warnings and the increased chance of death, truly astonishing.
So what you might ask? I just won’t water my garden. But the impact is likely to be much greater than a brown lawn. If the standpipes arrive in our streets we all ought to be preparing now. You don’t really want to find out how important water is as a key resource supporting your operations when it is switched off. It’s not just lavatories either – do you know how dependant you are on water both at your site and within your supply chain? Perhaps your computer system cooled by mains water (as some are) or you use water within a manufacturing process.
The response is quite different to the loss of other essential utilities. The loss of electricity can be mitigated by generators, gas could, with some expense, be stored. For businesses that use large quantities of water additional storage is not a viable solution. You can’t easily buy from another supplier either.
The issue calls for a wider look at an organisation’s risks and the way it manages them. Business Continuity will help but it will not resolve the issue entirely, especially if the availability of water (and other natural resources) continues to dwindle. Businesses should be adopting a broader approach to their resilience, using Business Continuity principles coupled with risk management approaches to identify how future threats might be mitigated. In the case of a drought, this might mean adapting business processes rather than attempting to continue them as they are.
The drought is but one example of a growing external threat. I am sure you have all built sand castles as a child on the beach. Just as the tide comes in you work hard to prevent the sea from breaching your defences, except the sea will win and at some point you are resolved to move your sand fortress further inland. It feels like we are getting closer to the point where we all need to think hard about how our businesses will continue before our defences are breached and it’s too late.