For several months now, in the areas of security and business continuity management a debate on the Expo 2015 risks is taking place. Not only for Milan, also for all the cities of art or for the Italian touristic destinations in general. The discussion is not trivial. If we consider that the Expo of Shanghai in 2010 did aggregate around 60 million visitors, even assuming the arrival of a fraction of that number of travelers (about 7.5 million tickets already sold at the end of December), the Italian and Milanese infrastructures will have to deal with the management of a significant critical mass of people. Some sources estimate that at least 20 million people will visit the Expo pavilions during the period of six months (from May 1 to October 31). The enthusiasm for the economic aspect of the event is therefore well justified, for all the profits it should produce on areas such as fashion, tourism, food and made in Italy in general. It is a great commercial showcase and as such, it really could assist in reviving our economy. However, we run as well the huge risk to highlight all the inefficiencies in our security and the almost total lack of prevention in emergency management. We must therefore make sure that everything is going to work, despite the skepticism and the lack of confidence in the organizational capability of our institutions. That criticism is certainly not new, but it is more than justified by countless precedents and the dimension of an event that is likely to derange Milan and Italy.
As the title announces, however, this article’s objective is to divert for a moment the finger pointing against Expo 2015 organizers, to focus instead the attention on what have we done for our organization in view of the event. How many of us have already made the necessary reflections on the probable, or rather certain, effects of such an impressive event? Here are some questions to which we should try to answer:
Are we ready to tackle the problems of traffic, transportation, the difficulties in finding hotels or to manage the relevant cost – sometimes tripled – for our visitors?
Supposing that some infrastructures might be clogged (hospitals, subways, trains, airplanes, car parks and restaurants), have we thought about how to overcome all the difficulties suffered by our staff, stakeholders and to our technology?
Those suppliers having a direct influence on our critical processes/services/products, supposing that they need to reach us to provide the maintenance of our operational continuity, are they ready? Have we asked them these questions?
Have we analyzed alternative strategies for potential accidents?
Can we move off-site some critical processes at risk?
How many of us did make a simulation of the effects on our business, when a few million people come to Milan bringing different cultures and religions, speaking different languages, and possibly with health, logistic or economic-related problems?
Are our physical security procedures, yet valid in normal times, still adequate considering the criticality of the event?
Beside the processes impact, have we thought about the critical resources in our organization? Do we have a plan to protect them from any consequences caused by the event?
How will the usual extraordinary works taking place during Summer time, and turning Milan in an open construction site, be managed? Will they be postponed? What are the consequences? Have we planned any seasonal structural intervention in our organization?
While there are so many questions we are thinking about and wished to ask to the institutions on their preparation to handle the problems of the community (such as waste collection, telecommunications, energy requirements and the municipal/extra-municipal transportations), we should start worry first and foremost of our continuity. No one can avoid this brainstorming: we must be convinced of the inevitability of the potential significant impacts caused by an event of this magnitude, unprecedented in duration and size. Now there is very little time to the event, so it is urgent to perform an assessment of our level of preparedness and think about possible actions to mitigate the threats detected. If the issues had been analyzed already, it is even more important to involve the top management of the organization – possibly in a convincing way – to achieve concrete results in such a short time. Subjects such as Corporate Security, Business Continuity and Crisis Management are definitely strategic and relevant and, given the problems to address, they provide a valuable support to managers. We should never rely only on the ability to react and on the typical and proverbial ‘Italian flexibility’ in dealing with the problems after the occurrence. After all, a healthy and appropriate prevention is positive also from an economic perspective.