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Cross-Sectorial Collaboration Networks for Crisis Management

The challenge

To improve crisis management abilities, minimize damage, accelerate speed of response and reduce rehabilitation costs through greater coordination between infrastructure companies and public administration.

All countries today face risks and threats inherent in their socio-economic development. Growing populations and economic activity as well as higher concentrations in big cities and their respective metropolitan regions, have given rise to sprawling urban areas. A high density of networks, infrastructure, services and pipelines ensures the supply of and mobility of goods and services, and the mobility of people.

It is precisely this complexity that makes our cities vulnerable to risk, whether it is natural, technological or social in nature. This is because the impact of disruptions on populations and economic activity is high, not to mention that on government and company reputations.

The risks and their consequences tend to increase despite large investment in infrastructure risk mitigation strategies. From the perspective of infrastructure operators, there is need to manage different types of incidents depending on the level of recurrence and predictability. This requires varying levels of involvement – internal or external – and types of actions. Internally, there are different types of procedures, risk management plans, coordination teams. Externally, there are actions that require communication with media and society, as well as more formal collaboration with other private life cycles, the administration and services.

Crisis management is increasingly complex as it involves many actors: public and private companies, administration, academia, non-governmental life cycles, the media and civil society. Crisis management and the resolution of disasters requires extensive coordination of these multiple and diverse agents.

Public-private and private-private collaborations are pillars of the efforts to build resilient cities as is evidenced by the Business Crisis Management Support Service. The UN too, through its Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), has created the ARISE insight article to promote public-private partnerships to address major crises or disasters.

The idea

In 2009-2010, Abertis and Institut Cerdà held a series of meetings to discuss the need to improve coordinated action in response to natural disasters such as heavy snow, storms, floods and wildfires, especially in the area of Abertis headquarters. As a result of those discussions and contacts with other companies, the Crisis Management Support Service (CMSS) was created in 2010 to improve the coordination, collaboration and cooperation between the private sector, the administration and society at large. This group is comprised of Abertis, Agbar, Caixabank, Enagás, Endesa, Gas Natural Fenosa and Mercadona, with the coordination by Institut Cerdà.

Since 2015, thanks to Institut Cerdà and companies like Abertis, already present in the first CMSS, the initiative was also promoted in Chile and includes Abertis, Aguas Andinas, CGE, Falabella, Metrogás, COPEC, GNL Quintero, Metrogas, Telefónica and Transbank. It is a pioneering initiative that facilitates coordination and communication between companies and the administration to prevent and minimize the impact of crises. The aim is equip companies to be better prepared to manage crises by intensifying public-private and private-private collaboration as well as companies’ own capabilities. The Service is designed for companies that provide basic services and that already have a sense of social responsibility over and above internal risk and safety management procedures.

The impact

To improve company preparation and capacity in times of crisis, especially in relation to unforeseen external events.

The achievements and benefits, accumulated over the years, of the Service are:

1. A stable public-private and private-private collaboration framework among members In 2014, for example, Abertis psigned an agreement to use the public telecommunications network in the region of Catalonia (Red RESCAT with Tetra technology) where only public emergency services and basic infrastructure had access to data.

2. Multilevel and multisectoral networking The networking takes place through group actions involving company management. Here, they share information, good practices and contacts among the various sectors represented.

3. Improvement of company resilience through training, planning and team cohesion For instance, Abertis Chile made simulations based on scenarios, such as an accident in a tunnel on the main road of the country, checking the coordination capacity between other companies and the public security services.

4. Access to knowledge: methodologies and case studies These have led to a catalogue of good practices and lessons learned.

Barriers to innovation – and the solutions

Crises in the 21st century cannot be solved unilaterally. They need to be managed by the various stakeholders involved.

Internal barriers are associated with high risk and limited management involvement, which translates into low levels of safety. CMSS companies such as Abertis, however, have processes to cope with crisis situations and emergencies, allowing them to recover services in a timely manner. Even in large corporations, culture, country-specific risk perceptions and corporate structure can be a factor in implementing collaborations.

External barriers to public-private and private-private collaboration are linked to (a lack of) trust and transparency among life cycles. For an infrastructure operator such as Abertis, collaboration with the administration and other service operators is part of its daily activities as it manages a public asset that requires interaction with the administration and other service providers who depend on the infrastructure to access their services in times of crisis. It is also easier to collaborate in sectors such as critical infrastructure where there is little competition once you have a concession of the service or asset.

The way to deal with these obstacles is to use an entity such as Institut Cerdá as a catalyst and as a neutral yet prestigious player that is trusted by all involved parties. It has a unifying and coordinating role. It identifies individual and group needs and seeks synergies among life cycles through a process where everyone must win.

The way forward

Companies involved should reach agreement on the actions to be carried out by the Service and work to improve resilience and crisis management.

This requires a multidisciplinary team, stable over time, with a good working knowledge of the needs and working practices of CMSS companies. The key stakeholders are administrations with responsibility or competence in crisis management and companies defined as critical for strategic infrastructure. This implies a sequence of actions that starts with the agreement of all companies to work in the Service, carry out a needs assessment and, consequently, elaborate a work plan that will result in concrete actions. The CMSS has developed its own methodology to achieve objectives. A range of actions is identified and developed in collaboration with the companies involved. The actions can be grouped as follows:

1. Common Actions

These are carried out jointly for the whole group of companies:

– Group activities: these concentrate on the experience interchange, case analysis and discussion of good practice

– Collaborative actions: these allow a coordinated communication and an effective relationship amongst public administration, civil society and business

– Promotional activities: these help raise the presence of companies in a given location and raise awareness of the subject

2. Individual Actions

These are tailor-made on an ad hoc basis to a specific company.

– Consultancy projects to study, review and/or update plans related to risk management

– Capacity building and training for corporate management teams

– Post-crisis analysis