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What has COVID-19 taught us about national preparedness?

Risk Management Consulting
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By Frederick Gentile | July 19, 2021

COVID-19 has highlighted the need to develop a more resilient society. This insight looks at how organisations can improve their societal preparedness and national resilience.

While COVID-19 has dominated our lives since March 2020, other equally unsettling crises such as terror attacks, extreme weather, cyber-attacks, supply chain shortfalls, etc. have also taken place contributing to the general disruption and uncertainty we are experiencing.

Governments across the world have had to react and deal with events they may never have conceived or expected with far reaching consequences. Communities have been forced to almost completely change the way they behave, and businesses are either struggling to survive or, in some cases, fighting to keep up with demand.

This rather bizarre set of circumstances has however taught us one very clear thing: we are not as resilient as we’d like to think we are.

How do we become more resilient?

Interestingly, the UK’s Integrated Review, prepared in 2019 but published in March 2021, includes a complete section on resilience entitled Building national resilience1. The review places an increased emphasis and commitment on strengthening security and national resilience within the UK and states that the Government will develop a comprehensive National Resilience Strategy which will seek to improve national preparedness and readiness. The proposed approach to developing a more resilient society will be wide-ranging with an integrated approach across all levels of Government, critical national infrastructure operators, the private sector, civil society and the public.

The National Preparedness Commission

One key contributor to the Government’s work will be the National Preparedness Commission2 chaired by Lord Toby Harris (former Chair, Metropolitan Police Authority and Reviewer of London’s terrorist preparedness). The aim of the National Preparedness Commission is to promote better preparedness for a major crisis or incident. Its programme of work is intended to be both strategic, (recognising that what is needed to be better prepared for many shocks is the same whatever the initiating crisis or incident), and practical to encourage comprehensive actions so as to get away from merely “admiring the problem”. The Commission will look holistically at what needs to be done to improve societal preparedness and national resilience.

The Commission has a list of distinguished members including Hélène Galy, who leads the Willis Research Network3, and who will be coordinating a collaborative project on where markets are effective (or not) to promote preparedness and resilience, the trade-offs between efficiency and resilience, and the incentives needed to make our ecosystems more resilient.

How will this affect us?

Along with other initiatives, such as the possible introduction of a new legal framework for 'publicly accessible locations' to ensure that they are prepared for and protected against terrorist attacks, the Commission’s work is likely to lead to new resilience and preparedness recommendations for adoption in private and public settings.

Improving organisational resilience and preparedness should be on every board’s agenda however it can appear a complex and daunting task. Willis Towers Watson’s GB Risk Management team offers a wide range of resilience building capabilities including enterprise risk management, business continuity and supply chain risk management. The team is on hand to assist and guide you on the journey to becoming more resilient and ensuring your organisation’s future.

Footnotes

1 https://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/CBP-9171/CBP-9171.pdf

2 https://nationalpreparednesscommission.uk/

3 http://www.willisresearchnetwork.com/

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Gary Drennan
Head of GB Risk Management

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