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Workers Compensation Issues

Employers Managing the Challenges of Civil Unrest

Mark Walls , Kimberly George | August 19, 2021

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During a riot, a masked rioter is drawing back a slingshot to fire.

Over the last year, many communities have faced large riots and protests that destroyed public and private property and resulted in hundreds of injuries. While these events carry a certain amount of unpredictability, an organization's planning and response to these events can minimize losses and, most importantly, keep people safe. 1

The latest Out Front Ideas with Kimberly and Mark webinar included a panel discussing the risk management challenges associated with civil unrest. Our guests included the following.

  • Anas Al-Hamwi, senior director Occupational Health and Injury Management, Walgreens
  • Renata Elias, senior vice president, Consulting Solutions, Marsh
  • Barry Scott, deputy director of finance, risk manager, city of Philadelphia
  • Thomas Simoncic, president, Property Americas, Sedgwick

Protect, Prepare, and Partner

No response is effective without proper planning and preparedness measures. Employers should consider their situational readiness by identifying tools that exist within their infrastructure, particularly their partnerships. Engaging industry peers, local community leaders, and municipalities creates a network of advisers to assist with early communications to all stakeholders. If there are multiple operations locations, empower your leaders at each site to make the right decisions by giving them the tools they need to execute proper procedures.

In planning, public entities need to adapt to allow and protect first amendment activities while also ensuring lives are protected in the process. While the balance can be tricky, partnering with federal, state, and local governments can forecast any potential issues. First responders and police units need to be in constant communication to respond to any event rapidly. Including everyone from fire units to public transit employees ensures a collaborative effort. Keeping communities informed with timely messages helps ensure both the public and employees are safe.

Having a crisis management capability within your organization helps senior leadership respond both quickly and appropriately, keeping you from being reactionary. Formalize your crisis management plan with reporting incidents, escalation to senior leadership, defining the criteria for an escalation, incident screening, and notification and activation of the senior leadership. Once you have buy-in and collaboration, you can align and integrate with all stakeholders to ensure the process is trained and exercised for capabilities.

Property Loss

While these incidents are not natural disasters, like hurricanes, they carry similar characteristics in that they are widespread, occur over different dates, and cause varying levels of damage and business interruption. Understanding what your policy covers and does not cover is critical to preparation. Reach out to your partners within your insurer and broker relationships to fully assess your needs. Understanding the definition of occurrence in a policy can determine whether or not multiple days of civil unrest are considered one deductible or not. Establishing a time line is necessary so your partners can scale and meet your needs while finding escalation and remediation points.

While protecting property is critical to restoring business activity, protecting people and their livelihood should always be a priority. Does your business continuity plan include details directing employees where to go if a specific location cannot operate? Will your vendors or suppliers know where to make deliveries? Where will your critical processes take place? All of these items should be addressed to ensure all stakeholders are prepared for a crisis event. Mobilization with partners and vendors before an occurrence can directly impact a response time, enabling an organization to get back to business faster.

Prioritize Your People

As you strategize for potential events and develop a continuity plan, people should be your priority. In keeping your employees and the community safe, communication and preparedness are key. Internal communications should be aligned with your strategies to ensure a coordinated response, and making appropriate connections with media partners can assist with disseminating external communications to the community.

Civil unrest training, developed specifically for regions, can help employers establish preparedness measures for their workers. It forms a basic knowledge of staying safe in a crisis while also keeping them informed of the business continuity plan. Communicate with federal agencies and local municipalities to make sure your protocols meet their standards. In addition to training, make sure your workers have resources like an employee assistance program to address their mental health throughout a crisis. Property can always be replaced, but human lives cannot, so people should always be the starting point when developing your plan.

Lessons Learned

The last year has served as a lesson in crisis for many organizations, especially those experiencing the aftermath of civil unrest for the first time. Responding to the next event requires careful consideration of what was missing in your initial response. Perform internal debriefs and postincident reviews to highlight any gaps and bridge the silos. And, when determining risks, consider all the external factors currently, like labor shortages, logistical supply chain and inventory issues, and rising inflation. These can all add to the costs associated with property repairs. Lastly, this past year has taught us that truly anything can happen, so go forward humbly and be prepared for what you do not expect.

Opinions expressed in Expert Commentary articles are those of the author and are not necessarily held by the author's employer or IRMI. Expert Commentary articles and other IRMI Online content do not purport to provide legal, accounting, or other professional advice or opinion. If such advice is needed, consult with your attorney, accountant, or other qualified adviser.


1 To listen to the archive of our complete "Managing the Challenges of Civil Unrest" webinar, please visit Follow @outfrontideas on Twitter and Out Front Ideas with Kimberly and Mark on LinkedIn for more information about upcoming events and webinars.