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Security Professionals Talk About Disaster Management

“How do we perform and prepare for every stage in disasters when during the actual [incident], it’s all panic and shouting?”

This was the first question raised by Ace Esmeralda, editor-in-chief of SecurityMatters, when he delivered a presentation entitled “Principles of Disasters and Disaster Management” during the monthly chapter meeting and fellowship of Philippine Chapter ASIS International last August 29 at Wyeth Philippines building in Makati City.

The ASIS International-Philippine Chapter is an affiliate of the largest international organization of security professionals. The topic for the night revolved around disaster preparedness and the security manager’s role in it.

Ace Esmeralda, editor-in-chief of SecurityMatters Magazine, delivers his presentation and shares his knowledge and experience to fellow security professionals. (Photo by John Ray Ramos)

Learning from Disasters

During his presentation, Esmeralda asked if we have a database that keeps track of lessons learned from disasters in the past. He also raised questions on disaster management practices based on past experiences. Such questions, he said, are not only for security managers but also for everyone.

Esmeralda also outlined certain concerns on the lessons learned from the recent onslaught of monsoon rains, typhoons Ondoy and Sendong, and other disasters. He mentioned that efforts should be made before, during, and after disaster incidents.

He added that disaster management is the responsibility of everyone in the government and that the national government needs comprehensive disaster management plans. According to him, policies should not be “rearranged PowerPoint presentations.” Plans should be thoroughly studied and consulted with different stakeholders like the private sector. Also, the physical environment and local population should be considered as no single template can be used in addressing disasters in different communities, he further stated.

Esmeralda also pointed out that the image of disasters is based on media. “What we see on TV is where the cameraman [TV crew] got stuck,” he explained. In reality, he said, disasters are far worse. So it is important, especially for national and local governments to have a disaster preparedness plan that is well thought of. He posed the challenge to the ASIS members on the use of real time reporting from “citizen” patrollers.

He likewise said, “More importantly, the local government should not be concerned about media coverage. Instead, they should focus on more important matters at hand and not assess their performance on how their actions received media mileage. Also noteworthy is that disaster recovery is an important phase that normally gets no attention from the media.”

Disaster preparedness education was also highlighted in his presentation. “Training should start early in life. We should teach children not to depend on rescue, dole-outs, and relief goods, but rather, to put protecting themselves as priority,” he further stressed. He also emphasized that individuals are responsible for their own safety.

In addition, Esmeralda said that trainings should be participatory, easy to understand, and essentially, have to be both wide-reaching and far-reaching. This means that more people should be trained and should reach even the remotest of areas.

On preparedness drills, Esmeralda quipped that they are usually conducted involving only one limited scenario and promoted only a single service mindset. To which he posed a challenge, “Why not escalate? Why not prepare for major scenarios?” According to him, it can be guaranteed that being able to handle major disasters assures a capability to handle smaller incidents and emergencies.

Esmeralda also underscored the important roles women play during disasters. He stated that there are certain needs only women can handle. He mentioned a scenario wherein during a calamity, rescuers don’t know how to take care of the infants they have rescued. “Most rescuers are macho men who don’t have the sensitivity to the needs of infants. So women volunteers and rescuers have a role to play,” he stressed.

Habagat and BPOs

Following the lecture was an open discussion. A question was raised on how BPOs fared during the recent onslaught of monsoon rains. It can be remembered that Malacañang announced a suspension of work. This highlighted concerns regarding the industry and its workers in times of calamities. Esmeralda quipped that “applying for a call center job is like signing up for military duty.”

In the ensuing discussion, it was brought up that there was an explicit interference of government in the private sector. The circulating impression that companies ‘do not take orders from the government’ has caught some ire. And they deemed the work suspension was not necessary because companies already have measures in place to protect their employees.

Such issues were deemed political as the discussion identified that the work suspension might be a political move to avoid criticisms. Also, it was noted that the plight of BPO workers can be used as platform for politics. The discussion noted that a certain group, claiming to represent the BPO sector, would be running for party list in the next elections. It can be difficult to categorize BPO workers as marginalized because they enjoy perhaps the best benefits and salaries in the labor sector.

BPOs have to serve clients worldwide on a 24/7 basis and cannot say that they cannot serve because of bad weather. This means that BPOs cannot just cease to operate. In this case, Business Continuity Plans (BCPs) are necessary to keep companies operational. And such BCPs should be activated before crises arise, not to be resilient but to be prepared.

Keep on Learning, Keep on Moving

Disaster management is a continuous process and as Esmeralda put it, disaster management means “to keep moving.” It means that the process should not start only when disasters hit and should not stop during times when there is none. It starts from preparation, on to response and recovery. It is important that we learn from what transpired then apply the lessons that we learned. It’s a cycle that never stops.

For security professionals, it is important to continuously educate themselves to know their part in disaster management. They don’t just protect the assets of companies; they protect the means people can provide for their families. Knowledge gained and applied means being more effective in preparing, responding, and recovering from disasters.

During the ASIS fellowship, it was also noted that resiliency, as a concept, is not being used by some companies anymore as it can lead to complacency and stagnation. It can put an end to learning and preparedness as a result of being complacent. This should not be the case for security managers as they should keep on learning and moving, Esmeralda said.

The event was successful, providing an opportunity for ASIS members and other security professionals to network and share knowledge in the field of industrial security and asset protection.

Security professionals who attended the monthly fellowship & chapter meeting of ASIS International Philippine Chapter last August 29. (Photo by John Ray Ramos)

Updates for Security Professionals

Conrado Dumlao of Truth Verifier Systems Inc. has announced that they will be conducting Advanced Investigation and Polygraph (Lie-detector) Seminars this coming December 3-5 and 6-8, 2012. Those interested may contact them for details.

ASIS 6th Asia-Pacific Security Forum & Exhibition will be held on December 3-5, 2012 in Hong Kong. ASIS members in the country are invited to join.

There would be six simultaneous events related to industrial security to be held in Singapore this coming November 7-9, 2012. Events are as follows:

Security Asia-International Expo 2012 (SAE 2012) – 7-9 Nov 2012

TAPA Asia Security Conference – 07 Nov 2012

Asia Hotel Security Conference – 07 Nov 2012

International Aviation Security Conference 2012 – 08 Nov 2012

ISCPP Singapore Security Conference 2012 – 08 Nov 2012

Corporate Security Management Conference – 09 Nov 2012

The Philippine Chapter of ASIS International holds its monthly fellowship every last Wednesday of the month. ASIS members and other security professionals are invited to meet colleagues from the industry and learn from one another’s experiences. The current Chapter Chairman is Col Dencio Acop, CPP, who is the Associate Regional Security Director of Pfizer-Philippines.

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