The pandemic caused by the coronavirus took the world by surprise. In Australia, the eastern seaboard had barely extinguished the flames of the devastating bushfires when coronavirus flew in and wreaked additional havoc on lives, businesses, education, infrastructure and society.
It looks likely that COVID is not going away and we’ll have to brace with preparedness for future waves, while simultaneously keeping a close eye on infrastructure and other assets. The impact of climate change will only increase the likelihood of natural disasters such as cyclones, bushfires, floods and droughts. Businesses and government alike must implement measures to increase the resilience and adaptability of assets to ensure the impact from any future pandemics and disasters is considerably lessened.
Now is the time to rebuild with resilience.
Asset management plays a critical role in this next step, the recovery phase. At its core, asset management is about reducing risks so that the asset can perform its function or service safely and efficiently. And in times of increased stress, particularly when caused by a pandemic or natural disaster, an asset management framework supports the asset’s ability to maintain its intended performance through unforeseen events.
With the threat of pandemics and natural disasters in mind, now is a good time to review plans and frameworks with a crucial focus on resilience. By adopting and reviewing the below elements of an asset management strategy, your organisation stands a greater chance to pivot through negative impacts to assets and society in general.
- Risk Mitigation:
The uncertainty of natural disasters and global health concerns means that an adaptive, flexible approach is optimal to address risk and vulnerability to assets. Reducing risks of natural disasters through clean energy and transport options, repurposing waste, and incorporating low and zero carbon emissions into asset function will offer a sense of stability within the workplace and the community. Local governments around the world, as part of the C40 Cities organisation, are focussed on climate-proofing critical infrastructure and key services to build resilience for the future. By recognising the interconnectedness of infrastructure assets and incorporating such into risk mitigation strategies, the potential damage to assets can be minimised in unforeseen events1.
- Emergency Plans:
It is crucial that emergency plans for natural hazards and pandemics are updated and available. Emergency plans should highlight shutdown procedures and responsibilities, as well as processes for ongoing asset performance, if applicable. COVID-19 provides businesses and governments with a timely opportunity to identify gaps in asset management strategies and emergency plans, pinpoint approaches that performed well, and to clearly see overall adaptability of the business and its assets.
Every organisation must make the asset management plan available to employees at all levels of the business. People are the greatest asset to any business and impacts caused by a natural disaster or a pandemic—as we’ve recently witnessed with the near-global demand for staff to work from home—can bring a sense of confusion and fear. Increased concern among staff in these unforeseen circumstances lies with their own health and safety. Communication is the balm that soothes your people in such times, and will also go a long way to both retaining them and keeping them engaged. Therefore, all communications that relate to asset management should include emergency protocols and risk mitigation strategies in order for people to quickly adapt to any rising need2.
- Continuity Plans:
Ensuring continuity in operation is crucial to resilience in assets and infrastructure. In any natural disaster and pandemic, key infrastructure assets including water, energy, supply chains, and public health must be able to pivot. The pandemic caused by COVID-19 showed an alarming lack of resilience in many countries, with some government departments scrambling and businesses making up continuity plans as employees left the building. A continuity plan that prepares for resilience will include elements such as records management, essential function, essential responsibilities, service, communication, information, and orders of succession3.
As the world looks back over 2020 and takes stock, it is apparent that asset management is the vital component that helps businesses and communities to better prepare for the future. Hands up if your organisation is ready.
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3 Info in this paragraph sourced: https://theiam.org/media/2358/developing-organization-resilience-through-asset-management-to-respond-to-covid-19.pdf