Russian power plant disaster and the global village

August 17, 2009

As I write this, the world is finding out about a horrible power plant disaster in Siberia. I’m now also blogging for Emergency Management’s new website and I offered a more complete list of lessons learned on that blog. (For those who may be reading this before they get a chance to post my blog on it, you can find it here.)

It is quite remarkable that a remote power plant disaster in Siberia would be communicated instantly and globally. Such is the global village. As they say, all incidents are local, but the impact is global. An important lesson for anyone preparing to respond. The most remarkable thing in this story right now is the fact that 54 workers are missing. They have 8 confirmed fatalities but don’t know the whereabouts of 54. I suspect this is going to cause a ruckus in Russia, but in the US such information coming out of a disaster at this stage would be completely unacceptable. Understandable, maybe, but unacceptable. The media would be all over this and heads would roll. People’s expectation is that when you go to work, they know where you are and if something bad really happens no one is going to say, we don’t know where these people are. Not 54 of them.

Employee safety and security is becoming a bigger and bigger issue. Within our company we certainly have seen an increased interest in improving the ways in which companies communicate with employees, verify their status, and keep their families informed if bad things happen. Some are using RFID devices to make certain they know where people are at. No doubt proximity-based notification will be close behind so those closest to danger will be alerted with specific instructions. With these capabilities comes the demand to use them.

The big lesson here is if you have a lot of employees and bad things could happen, be prepared to answer the question of where they are and if they are accounted for. If you can’t, a tragedy will soon turn into a reputation disaster from which you and your organization may never recover.

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