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New tool developed at Ohio State helps businesses improve their resilience

Free version of the Business Resilience Calculator launched to aid pandemic-hit firms

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to harm small and mid-size businesses due to supply-chain interruptions, temporary closures, employee illnesses and other disruptions. Now a new tool developed through research at The Ohio State University will help those businesses navigate the pandemic and disruptions caused by other natural disasters.

The Business Resilience Calculator (BRC) is designed to help businesses minimize losses during uncertain times. The calculator was developed through a partnership between Ohio State and the University of Southern California through the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign Critical Infrastructure Resilience Institute (CIRI).

“Resilience is a buzzword nowadays and it means the ability to bounce back,” said Noah Dormady, associate professor of public policy at Ohio State’s John Glenn College of Public Affairs. “This software is designed to help businesses and other organizations like nonprofits bounce back in the most cost-effective way possible.”

The BRC is a decision-support system that enables businesses to learn from the experiences of other businesses like theirs and to improve current capabilities and priorities. Users start by selecting the cause of the disruption and the biggest problems facing their business, whether that’s power outages or the inability of employees to report for work.

Leaders then select their top priorities for bouncing back, and compare their approach to those taken by similar businesses during actual previous disasters and the results they achieved. The tool enables users to identify the most cost-effective resilience tactics.

“We are going to give you probabilities in the software. It will tell you that there’s a 25% probability that making this decision will be this cost-effective, and that can potentially be a game changer for businesses,” Dormady said. “If they have to make a budget decision of whether or not they should invest in inventories or running extra shifts, they will be empowered by seeing what other firms like theirs actually observed in terms of how cost-effective those actions were.” “This can be immensely helpful to businesses at a time when every dollar counts, or before they lose a critical contract.”

Dormady and his research partner Adam Rose, director of the USC’s Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE) developed the tool using data they collected in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and Superstorm Sandy. Along with OSU doctoral student Blain Morin and OSU alum Alfredo Roa-henriquez of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), their team sought to understand the link between business responses to various stressors and the contributions those decisions made to their overall resilience. The team conducted two large-area surveys in the states of Texas, New York and New Jersey to assess the impacts of the storms on affected businesses.

Currently, a version of the calculator is being offered for free to help provide relief to businesses affected by COVID-19.

“The pandemic is one of the worst business disruptions in our nation’s history, causing huge economic losses,” Rose said. “The BRC will help affected businesses identify cost-effective resilience tactics to reduce further losses and to rebound from this disaster.”

The current version of the calculator focuses on the cost-effectiveness of resilience tactics to help businesses identify cost-saving resilience opportunities. The full version of the tool, which is scheduled to be released in 2021, will include additional metrics and modules.

“Looking at what has worked for other businesses opens your eyes to new possibilities and new ideas that you haven’t yet considered,” Dormady said. “And opening your eyes to those possibilities that are out there in the data, but not necessarily ones you’ve had discussions about in your boardrooms, can really be a game changer.”

The BRC has been developed with contributions from software development firm 2Wav, LLC, input from CIRI’s Jose Medina Cruz and Randy Sandone, and through funding from the Department of Homeland Security.

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