In a recent interview Mohammed Ahmad Al Jenaibi, CBCP, shared his thoughts and experiences with DRI International. We are pleased to bring you this interview and are very grateful to Mohammed or taking the time to talk with us.
Mohammed is an ex-military search and rescue pilot, as former Chief of SAR Coordination Centre. He joined NCEMA (National Crisis and Emergency Management Authority) in 2008 as a Director of Safety and Prevention. He specializes in quality management, A black belt Six Sigma, he specializes in quality management and is also an EFQM Auditor, as well as a DRI International Certified Business Continuity Professional(CBCP). He is the lead of the committee which developed and published UAE’s BCM Standard and Guideline (AE/HSC 7000:2012) in 2012. This was the very first BCM Standard in the gulf region. He also was the very first BC professional to be awarded a DRI International Award Of excellence as Best Program Leader of the Year for the Public Sector.
DRI: Will you provide a bit of background on NCEMA?
Mohammed Ahmad al Jenaibi: NCEMA was established in 2007 and by 2011 a resolution by president was issued for its roles and responsibilities. I joined in 2008, and by 2009, we started the business continuity management (BCM) project.
During the beginning we sought to do research, and we wanted to know what we were missing in this country and what we needed. We discovered that BCM was one of the important issues to tackle. (See Sidebar “Meet NCEMA,” page xx) And in August, 2013 I resigned from NCEMA.
DRI: Why Did NCEMA create its own BCM standard?
MJ: BS25999 was the standard at the time, but we thought it was not well-suited to our nation. We started to look at other standards, including the Singapore standard (SS540) , NFPA1600 (USA) and others, and then we decided to write our own standard in Arabic to be more comprehensive for the reader but still matching and using same methodologies in the standards mentioned.
When we started the first few pages, we thought it would work fine because everybody could understand it easily. We completed in one year the writing of the standard, but it took us two years to get consensus from all the federal departments and all the ministries. Finally, in 2012, the first version was issued.
DRI: In what ways is your standard different from the others?
MJ: Thank you, very good question. When I said that [other standards] were not well-suited, what I meant was that the language and the way they assumed the reader had a background in emergency management, but in our standard you can see the engagement of risk assessment taken from the ISO31000 throughout BCM.
For people without a huge background in emergency and crisis management, the format of BS25999 would be difficult. When you talk to a community, some agencies do not even have this management system in place. So, you cannot introduce them immediately to BCM. Our goal was to simplify how we did this in our standard. Within our standard, anyone can start and move from A to Z in very simple language and in very simple steps.
DRI: Can you tell me a little bit more about the state of preparedness in the UAE?
MJ: After establishing NCEMA, one of the first things they did was the National Response Plan (NRP). The NRP is complete and is being distributed to the whole government of the UAE, so all entities have prepared or are preparing their specific plans which can be plugged into the national response plan framework.
DRI: What about private sector businesses?
MJ: NCEMA has signed a mutual agreement with the Chamber of Commerce to involve the private sector, but you know we have huge companies who already have business continuity for their own interests. So, they are way ahead in advance. On the other hand, there are some other smaller businesses that have no idea about emergencies at all. I think this is because we do not have huge catastrophes in this country. Although we do not have big disasters, the private sector should realize the importance of emergency management, how they should be prepared, and how they can have their own plans.
Now NCEMA has started educating the public. There will be a lot of media and publicity by NCEMA supported by the Ministry of Interior, Civil Defense, and all the stakeholders. They will try to straighten out the education and spread the culture of emergency management. This is a challenge but it should happen within the next few years. We are already putting practice in place already and we hope By 2018, end of 2017, we should be done.
For the private sector, to refer to your question, we hope there will be some support from either the government or the other agencies to the private sector to build up their capability, because as you know the capabili- ties require resources and money. There may be some incentives for those businesses, to encourage them to incorporate this program into their firms.
DRI: What type of incentives?
MJ: For example, the government could encourage the relevant agencies in charge for the fees of the renewal of their license every year say if they have emergency plans, then they are category one. Category one would be 30% less or something like that. There is another incentive that was also proposed: the government would not sign with any entity or private entity unless they have BCM in place.
DRI: How would you evaluate those plans?
MJ: We would have to know whether they have plans first, if they are to contract with government. then we would have to review them in NCEMA or the appointed agency for the verification.
DRI: Tell us about the education and training that you provided to these different entities, what forms did it take and how long did it take. Were there exercises and tests involved?
MJ: In fact, NCEMA has been exercising the government agencies since 2010. The first one, of course, was like a surprise for some agencies to understand and it took some time to digest the lessons learned. I can say very proudly that in exercises five and six, everybody knew what they had to do and where they standing in emergency management
In terms of training, I am sure that more than 300 officials were trained in NCEMA. This is separate from the training that is conducted directly from the training providers to the entities because they know that they would need to train in EM.
DRI: What threats do entities in the UAE face?
MJ:. I can simply say that we do not have natural disasters. We do not have it in our history. But you remember the swine flu and the H1N1? Those threats were on the top of the list at that time, those are the kinds of threats we face. But we have practiced and NCEMA staff have gained a lot of experience, but threats are very dynamic, whether political, natural or manmade. But really what is happening inter- nationally could happen in the UAE, without a difference bearing in mind the first rule of Emergency management “always expect the unexpected.”
DRI: You talked about the support that you have from the top people in the country. One of the challenges that I hear from people in other countries is trying to get top management support and to get people to listen when they are talking about business continuity and its importance. How did you get that?
MJ: I can say we are lucky, honestly speaking. Our top leaders, from number one down, they all have been encour- aging. There is no doubt that we should be ready for any type of threat. If you talk about big resources like water, electricity, power, then you can see threats everywhere. And those threats are very devastating. I think because of these threats there was no hesitation of the leadership to give us a green light to go ahead and prepare UAE as much as we could. So it wasn’t as much our effort.
DRI: Finally, what is your hope of working with DRI? How do you think that relationship can help you and how can you help us?
MJ: I would say definitely, DRI could help us. The only words we can say to DRI is thank you for supporting our program.
DRI: You have already helped a lot to DRI through the important work you do and by taking the time to talk with us.
MJ: Thank you. The word from the top was that education is the key to success. So, getting education from DRI on emergency management and specifically on the BCM, and the methodology DRI is following is very valuable to us. I really appreciate the efforts, the cooperation I found with DRI, and I hope this cooperation will continue for a long time.