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Nepal Earthquake Response & Natural Disaster Preparedness

As the full extent of Saturday’s earthquake in Nepal continues to emerge, companies and organizations operating in the country should evaluate the status and safety of their personnel and take appropriate action.   While relief crews continue their response to the quake, risks extend beyond the continued aftershocks – including a 6.8 tremor on Sunday – that threaten additional harm and physical damage. Food and water supplies are limited and power is intermittent, hampering communication and making it harder to keep warm. Medical services are overwhelmed, and risk of disease could grow in coming days. These risks are unlikely to stabilize in the near future and the situation could deteriorate further.

As in any emergency, the first critical step is accountability of personnel — who is where and what is their status — enabling medical care and other immediate support. Additional recommendations for those with operations in Nepal include:

  1. Withdraw international staff not directly involved in disaster relief operations from the country. Risks are widespread and support services – limited under normal conditions – are stretched thin. Even minor medical issues would be difficult to resolve and options for quick departure may be limited.
  2. Support local national staff, recognizing they are more likely to be impacted by the disaster. Consider advancing salaries to cover emergency costs and identifying support resources (medical facilities, temporary housing/shelters, etc).
  3. Only if it can be done safely, assess condition of facilities and physical property such as vehicles and generators.
  4. Evaluate the need for post-trauma counselling for staff impacted by the disaster.  Employee Assistance Programs may be a starting place for this type of support, some of which may be available in Nepal.

While some weather related natural disasters come with limited warning (think hurricanes or blizzards), earthquakes hit suddenly. Companies and organizations should understand the range of likely natural disasters where they operate and include these in crisis management planning.  Additional considerations:

  • Understand immediate responses for natural disasters and communicate to personnel. For example: In an earthquake, do you run for the nearest exit or seek cover under a table? (Hint: running may increase risk from falling debris).
  • Maintain essential supplies or equipment at offices and residences. In Nepal, those with earthquake kits that included shovels, hard hats and flashlights were able to more effectively help themselves and their communities in the immediate aftermath of the quake. Food, water and first aid supplies are important for a range of emergencies including natural disasters…but make sure they are refreshed periodically.
  • Communication is critical to make decisions and coordinate responses, so invest accordingly. Satellite phones are invaluable in locations where the local mobile network may be incapacitated and vehicle chargers are essential in the event of a power failure.
  • Train personnel in first aid, incident management and other skills critical to help respond to a disaster.
  • Consider the need for natural disaster coverage as a part of security evacuation services.
  • Confirm insurance policies include up to date valuations to help recover cost of damaged or destroyed property.

For more on disaster planning and preparation check out these resources: