We’re living in an era of unprecedented terrorist plots and attacks, where hazardous materials, including chemical agents, are now being used outside of warzones to harm civilians. The recent attacks in Dourma, Syria, and in Salisbury, U.K., serve as a reminder that these incidents can happen anywhere, with devastating effects. With this in mind and the increased use of chemical agents in terrorist acts, it’s important for businesses to have a risk management plan in place to protect their workforce and property, should an attack occur.
So how can you help ensure your organization and its workforce are less vulnerable to a chemical attack? Here are two key steps to consider:
1. Do you have the right insurance coverage to protect your business?
To understand what insurance coverage you need to protect your business you need to assess the risk of a potential biological or chemical attack on your business.
A risk assessment should consider the likelihood of an attack based on the industry and locations of your business. Though as the attacks this year have shown, this can be difficult to predict. A risk assessment that identifies the different types of biological and chemical attack scenarios and the vulnerabilities of people, property and operations should be conducted.
Unlike an explosive terrorist attack where damage can be seen, the impact of a chemical attack can be difficult to assess. However, as the Salisbury incident has shown, impairment of access to businesses in the area has the potential for long-term business interruption as the remediation can be a time-consuming and costly exercise. The key issue of hazard removal and the assurance that any enduring risk is minimized cannot be trivialized, but the length of time and disruption to the business could have long-term impacts.
The insurance market has traditionally provided business interruption coverage following physical loss or damage, but coverage has now evolved to offer non-damage business interruption for these historically excluded instances. A business can also mitigate the risk of property damage and the defense costs of a lawsuit following an attack involving hazardous nuclear, chemical, biological and radiological materials.
2. Do you have a plan to protect your people?
In the immediate aftermath of an incident, the priority will be to protect your employees. Considering the right course of action as the incident unfolds is crucial. Organizations need to consider all available advice offered by governments and private companies that partner with law enforcement and other official bodies. Should law enforcement direct the public during the incident, plans for both evacuating and sheltering in place need to be drawn up to ensure your employees understand the procedures for each.
You will also need to consider what support will be required afterwards as employees recover from their experiences. The post-incident recovery support may need to include medical support, counselling, rest and rehabilitation.
A chemical attack incident brings with it a need to communicate with employees, customers and other stakeholders. Having crisis management experts who can provide tangible support in the event of an attack is vital. These types of attacks are intended to cause not only casualties and disruption but also widespread fear. An all-encompassing risk mitigation program should consider coverage for fees and expenses of crisis management consultants to provide support with media management, legal advice and stakeholder management.
Contemplating the impact of an incident on your organization is a deeply unsettling but essential to help ensure you can respond adequately should the unfortunate occur. Fundamentally, your emergency response plan should be designed to prevent, mitigate and respond to incidents. You should review your resilience strategy to confirm that should the worst happen, risk transfer and crisis response measures are in place and ready to be activated.
Given the raised awareness and potential for chemical attacks, the threat is real but the impact to your business and your people can be mitigated through adequate risk transfer and a suitable crisis response plan.