Be prepared! How International Standards help our world deal with hazards

2009-August-11

This week's article presented by the Antigua and Barbuda Bureau of Standards (ABBS) highlights ways in which ISO Standards help to alleviate the burden of responding to hazards on a wide range of stakeholders - from governments to mere individuals whether before during or after the event. The article written by Mr. George Arnold (ISO Vice President and Chair of ISO/IEC/ITU Strategic Advisory Group on Security) speaks about the processes by which ISO aids in the handling of such unpreventable circumstances. Mr. Arnold elaborates as follows:

"Hazards are all around us. We simply can't escape them if we try - from a "fender bender" as we're driving home, to cybersecurity attacks on our business's computer systems, to the hurricane expected to strike our area. The causes of hazards may be different - whether human negligence, malevolence or natural disasters - but their likelihood (and seriousness) is no less real.

Almost all hazards have a cost dimension, both human and economic. Although calculating an exact figure is unrealistic, one can assume that the total cost to government, business and society is very high - and only getting higher. A number of hazards also have global repercussions. Take, for example, the spread of the H1N1 influenza virus, causing fear of a pandemic across the globe. This is a stark reminder, not only of the global proportions that hazards may reach, but also of the ensuing implications to business continuity and social life when danger strikes.

Response to such events before, when, and after they occur are matters of both hazards and disaster management practice and also of public policy at national and international levels. In this context, ISO plays an important role by responding to market needs with globally relevant practical tools that assess, prevent and combat hazards in the most efficient manner. Standards help by:

  • Promulgating best practices and methodologies for addressing hazards
  • Specifying test methods and parameters to aid in detection of threats
  • Specifying requirements to ensure that equipment and systems provide the necessary performance and protection in extreme conditions.

ISO offers an extensive portfolio of International Standards that address hazards in such diverse areas as health and resources (e.g. drinking water during crisis, food safety, threats of contamination); transportation (e.g. maritime port security, transport of dangerous goods, RFID, freight container seals); fires (e.g. equipment, protection); natural disasters (e.g. earthquake resistant structures, wind actions); biometrics and personal identification (e.g. key in global efforts for combating terrorism); and cybersecurity (e.g. preventing data theft). ISO also has in its portfolio more generic, good practice standards applicable to any sector or organization, such as incident preparedness and continuity management as well as the future ISO 31000 standard on risk management.

Recognizing the global nature of security concerns, a Strategic Advisory Group on Security (SAG-S) consisting of members of the World Standards Cooperation - ISO, the Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) - coordinates the efforts of the three organizations for a harmonized and strategic response to security needs.

From the reactivation of ISO technical committee ISO/TC 223 on societal security to proposals on updating building infrastructure following the report and recommendations over the collapse of the World Trade Centre, the SAG-S has approached security standards with a high sense of urgency and speed-to-market. Today, the Strategic Group is looking toward the future by exploring new initiatives such as secure "Smart Grid" (new and efficient energy supply mechanisms) and ways to ensure security supply of telecommunications and electricity.

ISO is also working on ensuring there is a way to assess and manage the risks faced by business. This management approach allows an objective assessment of the likelihood and consequences of business risks and the potential they have for business disruption. This is looking at hazards in a new and objective way.

One thing has become very clear. No one is immune to hazards, either intentionally or unintentionally provoked. This has led to a global awareness that organizations in the public and private sectors must know how to prepare for and respond to unexpected and potentially devastating hazards.

Indeed, ISO is in an ideal position to address hazards due to the wide spectrum of fields it covers. But to do so it needs the concerted efforts of the global community, from strong partnership between government and inter-governmental organizations on one side, and the private sector on the other. "Let us do this together."

To find out more about ISO, this year's upcoming World Standards Day focus and the work of the ABBS kindly contact the Antigua and Barbuda Bureau of Standards, Corner Redcliffe Street & Corn Alley, P.O. Box 1550, St. John's, Antigua (W.I.) or Telephone 462-2424 or email: abbs@antigua.gov.ag.

 

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