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Bangkok Post (Thailand): New tool for companies to prepare for disasters: “Some multinational corporations, such as Shell, have scenario development departments.” ( 28 Jan 05


Experts in human resource management suggest that businesses use a "scenario development" technique as a way to prepare for unforeseeable disasters, such as the recent tsunami.


Scenario development involves evaluating the different scenarios that result from an environmental change. Developers draw up three sets of scenarios for each change _ best, medium and worst _ and then come up with plans and recommendations on how a company should prepare for each given set of scenarios.


"Preparedness is the best way to deal with disasters. And the preparedness must be done on the part of physical assets and human resources," said David Forman, the president of Maryland-based Strategic Management Advisors Inc.


Severe damage is unavoidable if an organisation has not been prepared to deal with any accident or unforeseeable situation, he added.


Some multinational corporations, such as Shell, have scenario development departments.


"Small businesses can also do their own scenario development, so that they know what course of action should be taken when certain events interrupt their business operation," said Asst Prof Siriyupa Roongrerngsuke of Sasin Graduate Institute of Business Administration, Chulalongkorn University.


She said that when a disaster takes place, such as the tragic tsunami last month, the role of leaders in business organisations is vital, adding that they should come up with contingency plans to direct their businesses.


According to Mr Forman, when a disaster strikes, the top priority of business leaders is to deal with their staff's emotions, fear and concern.


Each incident can generate different sets of concerns. When the 9/11 attack took place, office workers throughout the United States, not only in New York City, became concerned that they too could face a similar attack at their workplace, Mr Forman said.


For tsunami-hit businesses in the South that might be forced to close or reduce staff, Mr Forman suggested that the operators assess their resources as to whether it is feasible to resume operations before communicating to their employees any retrenchment plans.


As well, before laying off staff, fair performance appraisals of particular employees must be given.


"Fair appraisals could help protect employers from possible legal battle," Ms Siriyupa said.


Nevertheless, a lesson from the tsunami aftermath is that Thais, especially public administrators of officials in aid organisations, are not well trained in crisis management. No permanent organisation had been set up to deal particularly with such a national-scale crisis, as well , she said.


Representatives from several organisations have flocked to the tsunami-hit areas to provide assistance, but the aid effort has not been well-managed nor mobilised systematically, resulting in confusion and conflicts, she added.

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