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Last week there were riots in many Islamic counties targeting American institutions and organisations seen to be American. This week there has been anti Japanese’s riots in China. Although the cause has been different I think there are a number of similarities and lessons which could be learned which we as business continuity people should take into account planning for the next incident.

The outrage in the Islamic world was caused by a cheaply made film made by an American posted on Utube which subsequently went viral. The video is said to mock Islam and the Prophet Mohammed. American embassies in several Muslim countries have been attacked by mobs and the U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens was killed by Islamic militants.

The Chinese anger against the Japanese has deep rooted causes over the last 100 years but has risen again over the Japanese government buying a number of the privately owned islands in the East China Sea islands, known by Japan as the Senkaku and by China as the Diaoyu. These islands have been at the centre of an international dispute for many years. Japanese factories, shops and restaurants in China have been attacked and burned due to the unrest.

In both cases, buildings have been attacked but hopefully their business continuity managers will have plans in place to keep the businesses going. Have you as business continuity people, thought about riots and attacks possibility on your premises and staff?

I listened to a manager a while ago from a Danish telecoms company in Pakistan talk about the issues he had when a Danish newspaper published a cartoon which Muslims felt was derogatory to their Prophet subsequently the company was targeted by mobs as it was Danish. In incidents such as these you should always look for opportunities; his rivals were very happy to take advantage of this “opportunity” and there were staff from rival companies giving out free sim cards at the front of the mob to encourage them to switch phone providers. So lesson one, is that while you are in the middle of a disaster your rivals will take this as an opportunity to take advantage of it.

Secondly he talked about the company’s duty to staff. If I remember there was not a huge number of expatriate workers so it was not too difficult to take their families out of the country and leave the local and expatriate managers to deal with the incident. What was more difficult was what the company could do to protect its local staff. What is the company’s duty to take care of its staff? Even if you were to take them out of the country, which would very much depend on the size of your workforce, then what do you do with their families which could be large, multiple generations and include relatives? The duty of care for local workers and their families was a dilemma faced by companies in Japan after the tsunami and radiation leak; if staff and their families were moved from their homes what was the company’s responsibility to them and their family? This is an issue for senior managers but it should be brought to their attention as a possible incident dilemma or issue and perhaps would make a good exercise scenario!

As Japanese factories in China have been destroyed there may in the coming months be supply chain shortages so a review of your supply chain might be in order.

If you were looking to understand more about supply chain then we do an excellent day long course on “supply chain risk management”. The public courses are available from the 20thof November 2012 and the 12thof February 2013 and the training is available as in house courses as well.

Good to see many of you at this week’s supply chain conference in Reading!

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