Championing early warning and action: How the private sector addresses extreme weather events
At the Connecting Business initiative, we work with businesses in many of the countries that are most exposed and vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and weather-related disasters. As extreme weather events become more frequent and severe, it has become more important than ever to invest in early warning and early action to improve disaster preparedness and response.
Early warning and early action have been proven to help save lives in disasters. According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the number of deaths from weather, climate and water-related disasters decreased almost three-fold since 1970 thanks to improved early warnings and disaster risk reduction strategies, while the number of disasters increased five-fold.
The private sector is a key partner in these efforts to improve multi-hazard and multi-stakeholder early warning and early action.
Vanuatu, at the forefront of climate resilience
In 2021, Vanuatu was ranked the most at-risk country in the world, because of its vulnerability to climate change and weather-related events, such as cyclones, typhoons, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions. For local businesses, investing in climate adaptation has become a matter of survival.
The Vanuatu Business Resilience Council (VBRC), a private sector network of 2,800 members, mobilizes local businesses on the issues of climate change and disaster risk reduction.
VBRC helps businesses anticipate and prepare for disasters through capacity building on business continuity, and helps coordinate humanitarian response when disasters do strike. When Vanuatu was hit by a category 5 cyclone in 2020, VBRC quickly set into action, sending relief items to affected communities while international organizations were struggling to reach the country.
Sri Lanka: ready for the floods
In Sri Lanka, monsoon seasons historically occur twice a year. But in recent years, abnormal rainfall patterns have brought increasingly frequent flooding.
The severe floods of 2016, which cost nearly 200 lives and displaced hundreds of thousand people, triggered the mobilization of the private sector. The Asia Pacific Alliance for Disaster Management Sri Lank (A-PAD SL) worked with its 700 business members to coordinate disaster risk reduction, preparedness, and response efforts. The network organized a series of trainings on search and rescue in swift water in collaboration with local businesses.
This programme helped strengthen the response capacity of local volunteers and first responders. In 2021 alone, A-PAD SL conducted more than 300 awareness programmes for communities and businesses on topics such as early warning and response mechanisms, and management of water resources for drought and flood mitigation.
Madagascar: getting ahead of the storms
The 2022 cyclone season has been particularly devastating in Madagascar. In just one month, the country was hit by four storms, including Tropical Cyclone Batsirai on 5 February and Tropical Cyclone Emnati on 23 February. 205 people lost their lives, and thousands were displaced. The Government’s latest figures estimate that some 420,000 were affected in the south-east region alone.
The National Disaster Management Office helped save lives ahead of the cyclone with early warning messages sent through radio, social media and mobile phones to the communities. The local private sector chipped in the effort, waiving the sending fees for thousands of these messages.
The CBi Member Network in the country, the Private Sector Humanitarian Platform (PSHP), quickly mobilized local businesses in the humanitarian response. While Storm Ana displaced thousands of people in the capital city, the PSHP rapidly organized the delivery of hot meals to displaced families in urgent need of support.
Throughout the years, PSHP has also invested in disaster preparedness and climate adaptation. Best practices include the construction of flood-resistant infrastructure, pre-positioning of relief items ahead of the cyclones, and business continuity planning.
The Philippines: Partnerships for Multi-Hazard Early Warning Systems
The private sector in the Philippines has been engaged for more than a decade in disaster risk reduction, preparedness, response and recovery efforts. The experience of the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF) serves as an inspiration for other business networks in the world.
PDRF’s Business-led Emergency Operations Centre monitors weather events and sends warning messages thanks to the Hazard and Disaster Analysis for Business Resilience (HANDA) system. The platform shows current information including areas with reported flooding, casualties, number of people missing, and more.
Since 2020, PDRF has also been working with the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) which is the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services agency in the Philippines to strengthen joint efforts in disaster preparedness and the enhancement of existing early warning systems.
Haiti: Supporting disaster-ready communities
From earthquakes to floods, Haiti is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world. Despite economic and security challenges, the local private sector is involved in helping communities and businesses be better prepared for disasters.
In response to Tropical Storm Laura in August 2020, CBi Member Network, the Alliance for Risk Management and Business Continuity (AGERCA) helped to send out more than two million early warning text messages to the population and provide phone credit to the National Emergency Operations Center to facilitate communications between departments.
Working with the private sector is critical in promoting multi-hazard and multi-stakeholder early warnings and actions for better preparedness. Partnering with local businesses is a good investment, allowing humanitarian organizations to take advantage of their financial flexibility , innovative approaches to hazard monitoring and risk assessments, and strong links with local communities. At CBi, we will continue to promote private sector partnerships for early warning and early action for better preparedness, response, and recovery.
This article was originally published on the CBi LinkedIn Page, March 2022.