Local businesses learn post-disaster strategies

The Samoa Chamber of Commerce has gathered nearly hundred businesses to learn how to prepare themselves before a natural disaster affects their business.

Over three days across Upolu and Savaii, members of the private sector will prepare business continuity plans under the training of the Wellington Region Emergency Management Office (W.R.E.M.O.).

Ana Fa’atoia is the emergency management Advisor for community resilience in Wellington, New Zealand, and she is here in Samoa to run the workshops.

Following two major earthquakes in New Zealand in the last decade, W.R.E.M.O. developed a program for small to medium enterprises to develop continuity plans following disasters.

It was much more popular than with just smaller businesses and sure enough government agencies and large corporations wanted the training too.

“That’s when we saw a need to have this important conversation more widely, and also for an opportunity for different groups in the business community to network."

“We say to the everyday household, get to know your neighbour, they are the ones who can support you, and for our business community that’s the same.”

Soon the W.R.E.M.O was approached by the Pacific Islands Private Sector Organisations (P.I.P.S.O.), who wanted to train from the toolkit too.

The United States Agency for International Development (U.S.A.I.D.) Ready project took on the funding for training, and in looking for facilitators went straight to the source.

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“So here I am in Samoa, which for me is coming home and paying it forward, and giving back to communities here,” she said.

Ms. Faatoia lives in New Zealand but her family comes from Safotu, Sala’ilua, Lotofaga, Siumu, and Tanugamanono.

The training this week follows a 12-step guide towards a more resilient business with a plan for disaster, starting with staff.

“Always keep your staff at the heart of this planning, because that’s your productivity, they’re the people who help you recover."

“If they are prepared, then they are more willing to return to work and help you set up again,” she said. 

Workshops will cover relocating businesses if necessary, the importance of insurance, safety of information and spreading out responsibilities.

“We want to eliminate that one point of failure, where for a lot of businesses there is that one person that you have to go to who makes all the decisions." 

“We want to empower our business leaders to actually start doing a bit of delegation so that staff members can take on a bit of ownership or accountability, especially in a time of crisis,” she said.

A priority for the training is to actually prepare a business continuity plan, covering all the risk areas.

For isolated communities, the private sector often steps in to provide for communities during disasters where official resources may not be able to provide support.

During consultations in Wellington, communities identified their local business like supermarkets and pharmacies as resources during a natural disaster, so it is important to ask those businesses if they are prepared to meet those needs.

“Through our business continuity planning workshops we can identify exactly who will be committed to supporting the wider community.”

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