Why It’s Time to Add Biorisks to Your Risk Portfolio Today

Is biorisk on your radar yet? If not, you might have a significant gap in your risk portfolio.

You know the risk landscape in today’s world is dynamic. Significant events are occurring with much greater frequency and impact than ever before, but you may not be thinking and preparing proactively for the next area of ever-increasing global concern – biorisk. That would be a mistake. 

Why It’s Smart to Add Biorisks to Your Risk Portfolio Today

What is biorisk?

Biorisks create physical world threats that often combine to impact security for workforce, inventory, supply chain and business continuity. Examples include:

  • Infectious disease events such as winter respiratory viruses, Ebola outbreaks and norovirus (stomach flu) seasonality
  • Environmental events such as heat waves, air quality problems and flooding
  • Infrastructure events such as electrical grid outages, hospital evacuations and boil water notices
  • Geopolitical events such as refugee movement, civil unrest and war

The most recent large biorisk we’ve faced is the pandemic, but illness isn’t the only threat. Biorisks are affected by environmental factors like temperature, air quality, storms, fires and floods, as well as terrorist activities like the deliberate release of biological or chemical agents. 

A report from the McKinsey Global Institute warned,  “We find that India could become one of the first places in the world to experience heat waves that cross the survivability limit for a healthy human being sitting in the shade.” India may be the first place to cross the survivability limit, but it won’t be the last.

How do common biorisks affect your enterprise?

Here’s an example of a biorisk that, based on weather predictions, could occur in the U.S. in the next several months.

Your warehouse is not climate-controlled, and rising summer temperatures and heat waves put your workers at risk. You need more than tomorrow’s forecast to determine when it’s safe to work in your facility. 

How hot is too hot to work? Should you move shifts to overnight hours? Should you stop a shift at 10 a.m., or can your crew work until noon? Can you stretch it until 2 p.m.? Does your workflow allow your workers to take breaks, drink more fluids, limit exposure to the sun and rest more often? Are workers encouraged to take care of themselves or push through the heat? What does the union representing your workers require?

Furthermore, depending on your location, there may be rolling brownouts or blackouts due to heat that will further impact your operations. You not only need the ability to forecast the event but also to make contingency plans in case of power outages. 

Do you have enough fuel for your generators to last multiple days? Have you tested your generators recently? Do you have a plan for operating under reduced power supply in your warehouse? Do you have potable water in case power outages affect the water supply?

Heat isn’t the only biorisk you face in this scenario. As temperatures rise and vegetation dries out, the risk of wildfire increases. And after an area has burned, heavy rains can lead to mudslides. Extreme heat, fire and rain increase the risk of displacement and disease.

This is only one example of an “incident within an incident” when the precipitating event is complicated by other issues. Heat leads to fire which leads to mudslides which leads to an increase in insects and disease transmission. Every major threat can be compounded by related issues. Murphy’s Law counts on it.

No One is Coming to Save You

As a leader in your organization, it’s your responsibility to protect enterprise assets. We’ve learned to our dismay that governments and their agencies are not designed to rescue companies or individuals. We’re on our own!

Your job includes protecting physical structures, assets and network capabilities, but it also means you are responsible for keeping your employees safe. People are the key to business continuity. Their well-being is the number-one priority and is essential to economic security.

Why It’s Smart to Add Biorisks to Your Risk Portfolio Now

Think about your cybersecurity plans. More than likely, you have a comprehensive cybersecurity plan in place today, but that might not have been the case five or 10 years ago. The threat has grown every year and cyber criminals have evolved their attacks to compensate for better-educated victims, making it more important than ever for companies to manage their risk.

In the same way, adopting a biorisk strategy is a best practice for senior security leaders. The earlier you identify gaps and develop biorisk management plans to fill them, the better off your enterprise will be. Also, your biorisk management plans will likely involve your entire workforce, just like your cybersecurity plans do. Starting to plan now will give you a solid foundation for actions in the future.

The Public Health Company Provides Early Expert Intelligence

PHC Global has developed its Pharos Platform to act as an early warning intelligence system. Pharos works independently or connects to your existing systems to give you a head start on working your plan. PHC Global experts are also on hand with alerts and guidance so you can determine when action is required – and when it’s not.

If you’d like to learn more about biorisks and PHC Global, visit us at phcglobal.com.


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