On February 2, 2023, 38 Norfolk Southern freight trains derailed in East Palestine, Ohio. The hazardous chemicals they carried spilled into the air and water, killing local wildlife and posing serious public health risks. The consequences are still not fully known.
In a twist that’s stranger than fiction, East Palestine was a filming site for the 2022 film White Noise. The movie (based on a 1985 novel) depicts a fictional train derailment and resulting chemical spill called the “airborne toxic event.”
East Palestine residents, many of whom were extras in the film’s disaster scenes, are now navigating a real-life toxic event. Their sense of deja vu is particularly ironic, because deja vu is a key symptom of exposure that characters experience in White Noise.
The novelist and producers behind White Noise couldn’t have predicted the East Palestine train derailment. But the story is prophetic because it depicts what every risk officer already knows – sooner or later, disaster will strike.
In White Noise, the train derailment creates a chaotic tangle of aftermath. Families are displaced, misinformation spreads like wildfire, and a prolonged cloud of stress and uncertainty lingers in the community. It’s a scenario very much like the COVID-19 pandemic.
Your mission as a risk officer is to shield your enterprise from such chaos. To that end, proactive risk management is just as important as damage control in the midst of a crisis. From global pandemics to natural disasters to chemical spills, you can protect your business tomorrow by mitigating risks today.
Here are a few essential steps you can take.
Assemble diverse, trustworthy data sources
Where you get your information matters. You cannot make meaningful, evidence-based decisions from questionable data, but during events, high-quality public health data is often limited due to a variety of obstacles, including resistance to new technology and concerns about patient privacy.
By relying on diverse data sets, including academic, government and commercial sources, you can make more effective predictions and decisions on behalf of your enterprise. The PHC Pharos Platform relies on curated diverse data sets to accurately quantify risks and make actionable recommendations.
Insulate your enterprise from recession and economic crisis
Many local small businesses have struggled to recover from the East Palestine train derailment. Fear and uncertainty keep many would-be visitors away from the town. They also create an atmosphere of economic caution that dampens discretionary spending.
Is your business poised to survive an economic crisis resulting from the next major public health event? The prospect of a future economic downturn should be approached as a when, not an if.
When political upheavals and public health crises occur at the same time, the resulting economic strain often intensifies. For instance, Britain experienced the far-reaching impacts of leaving the European Union at the same time that COVID-19 was creating economic uncertainty.
Recession-proofing your business is a complex process, but it may start with efforts such as:
- Securing your supply chain
- Reducing current debt
- Streamlining your internal processes to eliminate redundancies and unnecessary spending
Optimize your ability to forecast global biorisk trends
Without a crystal ball, you can’t predict exactly when the next train derailment, oil spill or pandemic will strike. You can, however, analyze the factors that drive risks to create actionable prediction models.
For example, by analyzing the contact rate, transmission risk, case-ascertainment rate and case-fatality rate of an infectious disease, we can arrive at meaningful conclusions about whether a local outbreak or a global pandemic is more likely. PHC can help you assess future risks and make plans for containment and continuity.
Maintain an agile, adaptable workforce
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses were forced to implement work-from-home policies. Now, in 2023, it seems that the work-from-home trend is largely here to stay. However, it’s important to have a plan in place to adapt your team’s size and location as needed.
When the next threat of widespread contagious disease arrives, will you need to move additional staff to remote work? Will you need to suddenly hire more staff or change your reporting structures? How quickly and smoothly can your enterprise make those transitions? No matter what your current processes look like, it’s vital to consider how they’ll need to change during the next disaster.
PHC Pharos: An Indispensable Tool For Risk Mitigation
PHC Pharos is a SaaS platform that can transform your relationship with biorisk. Powered by robust data, cutting-edge artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies, Pharos gives you the advance warning that you need to secure your workforce and inventory.
Want to know more? Schedule a demo to learn more about PHC and the PHC Pharos Platform.