April 22, 2010
By: Eric Lundin

Events in Iceland generally don’t warrant international headlines. That’s not to say it isn’t an interesting place. If you’re into linguistics, you already know that its language is essentially the same as when it was spoken by its original settlers; 1,000 years of relative isolation has preserved the language that the Vikings spoke. If you’re into political science, you probably know that its parliament, the Althing, dates back to the year 930. If you’re a geologist, you’re well aware that the people of Iceland enjoy an abundance of essentially infinite energy sources, specifically geothermal and hydroelectric. On occasion the country does make the headlines. Two cold war events unfolded in the capital city: in 1986 then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan met Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev for an arms control summit (the talks collapsed), and in 1972 Bobby Fischer faced off with Boris Spassky for the World Chess Championship (Spassky collapsed).

And, on April 15, the island’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano taught many travelers a thing or two about contingency planning and many business managers a lesson in disaster preparedness. Granted, the airlines have the most to lose, but the lessons are obvious for businesses of all sorts.

If you’re reading this, you probably manufacture things. Are you ready for an emergency, large or small? When was the last time you shopped around for alternate sources of raw materials, components, and supplies, in case one of your vendors becomes crippled by a natural disaster or a strike? Do you have competitive bids on shipping in case your shipping company has a strike or goes out of business? How about internal crises? Do you cross-train your employees so that an unplanned absence doesn’t disrupt your production schedule? For that matter, when was the last time you conducted a fire drill? If your company provides services and your staff members travel a lot, do they have access to a computer, telephone, and cash reserves? How much latitude do they have in making alternate travel arrangements? Do they know whether you would want them to sit tight or hurry home?

We can wait a couple of weeks and go back to business as usual, but judging by recent seismic activity—especially the earthquakes in Haiti (Jan. 12), Chile (Feb. 27), China (April 13), and Afghanistan (April 18), and of course the volcanic eruption in Iceland (started April 15)—we’d be better off to plan for a few types of emergencies.
Eric Lundin

Eric Lundin

FMA Communications Inc.
2135 Point Blvd
Elgin, IL 60123
Phone: 815-227-8262