Last year’s earthquake, tsunami and subsequent partial meltdown of two reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant presented numerous challenges for U.S. organizations with employees, facilities or critical suppliers in Japan. An effective incident response and recovery on foreign soil requires substantial pre-planning with local authorities and an understanding of international standards and best practices — not just those laid-out by FEMA.
Mike Janko, Global Business Continuity Manager at The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company and member of the Continuity Insights editorial advisory board, was part of Goodyear’s incident command team during the Japan crisis. Although none of Goodyear’s facilities were affected, he used the experience to further develop the company’s radiological response plans. In this article, Janko shares some of the best practices, guidelines and documentation he uses to address — and improve — Goodyear’s business continuity plans for radiological incidents. First, some reasons to include radiological response plans in your business continuity planning.
Why Plan For A Radiological Incident?
The all-hazards model of business continuity planning encourages a broad, event-neutral approach to the management of incidents with a universal focus on people, facilities and supply chain. That said, no two incidents are identical and, as such, the all-hazards approach recommends that business continuity plans be supplemented with information that can help your organization prepare, respond and recover from a specific event.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports in 2012 that there are 435 nuclear power plant units operating in 31 countries. In addition, 63 nuclear plants are currently under construction in 15 countries, including one in the U.S. and 26 in mainland China — the undisputed manufacturing capital of the world.
Add to this the hundreds of nuclear-powered naval vessels circumnavigating the globe and you start to see that your employees, facilities or critical suppliers will almost certainly be in the vicinity of a nuclear reactor at some point in the future — if they aren’t already.
The Exposure Zones
Goodyear uses the guidelines laid-out by the IAEA to assess the exposure of its facilities to a possible radiological incident and classify facilities that are within “radiation emergency planning zones.”
“We evaluated all of Goodyear’s global facilities and classified them as zone 1 — within a 10 mile or 16 km radius — or zone 2 — within a 50 mile or 80 km radius — of a nuclear plant. This IAEA system is based on the following classifications: zone 1 is considered a “plume exposure pathway” with direct radiation exposure while zone 2 is considered an “ingestion pathway” with potential water supply, food crop and livestock contamination.
“During the Japan earthquake-triggered incidents, the media reported those in zones one or two were not allowed to go to work — the government shut down those areas. Many second- and third-tier suppliers to the automotive and electronics industries were unable to continue operations, partially because of this lockout situation,” adds Janko.
With over 800 global vendors (including raw material suppliers), Goodyear has ongoing dialogue with those that are considered most critical. Part of this engagement involves a discussion of the vendor’s risks and business continuity practices. In the future, each critical vendor’s risk profile will be evaluated using the zone 1 and zone 2 classifications used by Goodyear internally.
The Goodyear Radiological Action List
Janko and his team at Goodyear used an internal review, IAEA recommendations and benchmarking data from companies with large employee bases in Japan to determine the most important components of a radiological preparedness, response and recovery plan.
Some radiological plans include a lot of detail: explanations of radiation measurement units, conversion tables for alternate units of measurement and instructions for using radiation badges, for example. Janko warns there is a downside to having highly detailed plans: “You have to be careful because the more detail you include the harder it is to maintain the plan.”
In Goodyear’s business continuity planning process, details are included for the incidents posing the biggest threat in terms of probability and potential for widespread damage — a trademark of the aforementioned all-hazards approach.
“We have general incident plans that go into some detail for what incident response teams should do. What we have done for big-ticket incidents such as flooding, hurricane, fire, power outages, earthquakes and, now, radiological incidents is put together a 10- to 15-page document containing specific action items for each event broken up into sections that cover preparedness, response and recovery activities,” explains Janko.
The action items for radiological incidents, contained in a spreadsheet referred to as the Goodyear Radiological Action List, are broken up into the seven categories. Janko walks us through each category and provides sample action list items:
Note that the safety of associates and their families is the number one priority for Goodyear during an incident. The response and recovery of business operations follows efforts to contact and assist any affected employees.
Use & Improve
The action list is laid out in a way that makes it easy to allocate and record the completion of any tasks. It also references any relevant internal business continuity documents.
“Our action list directs incident team members to various activities and documents to be used during the incident. In the spreadsheet there is an option to assign an action item to another team member and a checkbox to indicate the task is complete. If I’m the incident commander, I can disseminate responsibility. We’re all using a common checklist and I can make periodic assessments to see what still needs to be done,” says Janko.
Goodyear maintains translated versions of the documents in a variety of languages.
After an incident, Janko uses Survey Monkey — a free online surveying tool — to collect feedback from his team. This information is then used to identify any gaps and improve the relevant documents.
Several items in the action list were based on recommendations from following agencies after review by the incident response team:
- International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
- Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)
- World Health Organization (WHO)
Japan’s former Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, recently conceded that Japan was woefully unprepared for last year’s nuclear disaster. Kan cited poor communication and coordination between nuclear regulators, utility officials and the government as one reason for the anemic response efforts.
The breakdown of communications is a common problem during any catastrophic incident. The need to establish lines of communication and protocols ahead of time is a point Janko reiterates several times.
“When the Fukushima incident occurred, we set up a conference call bridge to immediately link all affected regions together, across multiple time zones, for our initial assessment of the incident. In addition, we used Webex — on online screen sharing and conference call software service — as a form of virtual emergency operations center (EOC) in order to get the right people engaged. From there we were able to gather information on our people, partners, neighbors, facilities and critical suppliers.
“We were then able to determine the necessary tasks and allocate them to team members. It’s all based on pre-planning: identifying the key risks, critical processes and steps we need to take to stabilize the situation,” Janko adds.
The World Bank estimated the total economic impact of this incident at over $230 billion, making it the most expensive natural disaster in history. More significant was the massive loss of life. As we approach the one-year anniversary of the events in Japan, Continuity Insights remembers all those that died and recognizes the thousands that helped in the response and recovery.