One of the three major categories of disaster types. The other two being Natural/Human-made and Fictitious.
This also aligns with a conversation about the definition of a threat versus a hazard. We view threats as the “thing” causing the potential adverse impact (the “hazard”). So a series of days of heavy rainfall generates flash flooding, which makes your street flooded where you can’t get in or out of your home. Hurricanes can generate flash flooding and so can dam breeches.
Product/Process Disasters – which by the way, we call Disasters, when others may say incidents, crises, emergencies, etc.
Someday we hope there will be clearer definitions for the severity of the incident to delineate between an emergency and a catastrophe – and also elimination of the phrase “natural disaster“.UNDRR
These are those incidents which are generally self-contained within your organization or maybe involves your supply chain with third-party vendors. Bottom line, is that the rest of the public is not (yet!) impacted in the same way as you are – but these disasters can also be the start of something worse – they can cascade into other types of disasters or magnify/amplify other disasters out there.
Examples of Product/Process Disasters
A recall of a product is certainly a Product/Process disaster for the company. In many cases, it may be manageable and not have a significant impact on revenue, goodwill, staffing, etc. of that company. Recalls and other Product/Process disasters can have life safety impacts, such as food recalls, which require crisis communications and other emergency management actions by the firm, partners, governments, etc.
Product Tampering may be a Product/Process disaster: if it occurs within the production or processing of the product. On the other hand, post-production (i.e. retail sales points and other sites) product tampering is a human-made disaster (and a criminal one, too). The 1982 Tylenol murders were initially thought to be a Product/Process disaster, then turned out to be external product tampering, and eventually led to massive Product/Process changes for the pharmaceutical industry.
Even governments themselves have processes which can be suspect, thwarted, error-prone, delayed, manipulated, etc. and become Product/Process disasters. The U.S. Election process comes to mind, especially presidential elections. Emergency Management principles (such as life safety concerns being paramount, incident stabilization, and property/asset protection) should be utilized by governments to preserve their election integrity.
Product/Process Disaster can originate from and generate other disasters
Everything is connected somewhere and some how. We mentioned supply chain issues as being a possible catalyst for your organization’s Product/Process disaster. This can be everything from a traffic jam to a potential work stoppage at a major carrier to a worldwide pandemic. Your Product/Process disaster can be one of the dominoes tipped over by someone else’s disaster of any kind (think cyber-attack at a major U.S. pipeline) or even worse, a Natural Disaster causes a Product/Process disaster at your organization, which causes a Human-Made disaster in the rest of the nation.
What to do about Product/Process Disasters
The key to Product/Process Disasters is to defend against them the same way you would any other disasters. By taking an All-Hazards, All-Threats approach to Product/Process Disasters the same way as you would for Natural/Human-Made and Fictitious Disasters, your disaster management team (i.e. crisis team, risk management team, etc.) will have the ‘muscle memory’ of following the same pathways and checklists for all disaster types. Yes, the “response” is very different for a recall than it is for a tornado, but reframing management’s priorities (and their crisis communications to the public and their own workforce) from revenue or other mandates to ones where life safety is now the guiding priority (sometimes at the cost of lost revenue, lost prestige, etc.) is what Emergency Management is all about.
[Ad] Barton Dunant can help any organization view Product-Process Disasters in a holistic way, along with the other disaster types. We help organizations build crisis action plans, which cover all of the workforce actions needed on an all-hazards, all-threats basis.
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Severin, P. N., & Jacobson, P. A. (2020). Types of Disasters. Nursing Management of Pediatric Disaster, 85–197. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-43428-1_5