A New Year’s resolution: stop ignoring rare high-impact events
- Published: Thursday, 07 January 2016 08:45
A broad ensemble of very rare, but extremely high impact, events have the potential to cause wide-area devastation. However, they are normally ignored in contingency plans, being written off as too unlikely, or too difficult to prepare for. This attitude, while understandable, adds to the risk as, although rare, these events will occur at some point: and it is as likely to be this year or this decade as it is to be hundreds of years into the future.
A report published last year looked in detail at the risks of such extreme events and made proposals for preparations that could be made to increase the chance of community and organizational survival.
‘Extreme Geohazards: Reducing the Disaster Risk and Increasing Resilience’ was a joint initiative by the European Science Foundation (ESF), the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) and the Geohazard Community of Practice (GHCP). It addresses several types of geohazards, but puts special emphasis on the impending risk of catastrophic effects on populations and infrastructures should our growing and increasingly interconnected modern society be exposed to a very large volcanic eruption. The paper highlights the urgency of establishing an effective dialogue with a large community of stakeholders in order to develop robust risk management, disaster risk reduction, resilience, and sustainability plans in the coming years and decades.
According to the report several elements are needed to reduce the global risk associated with extreme geohazards, these are:
- A global scientific framework for strategic extreme geohazards science in support of warnings, preparedness, mitigation and response to minimise the impacts of extreme geohazards;
- Scenario contingency planning to create the knowledge needed to reduce the risk by addressing systemic weaknesses that could lead to cascading effects;
- Increase of risk awareness through dissemination of information on the global risk associated with extreme geohazards;
- A global monitoring system to provide early warning for emerging extreme volcanic eruptions;
- An informed global governance system capable of responding to emerging global threats and coordinating measures to increase preparedness and general resilience with the goal of reducing the
global disaster risk.
- As an immediate step, the existing International Charter on Space and Major Disasters should be extended to include actions aimed at increasing
preparedness and awareness of emerging threats for early warning purposes.
Much of this is far beyond the scope of individual business continuity and resilience managers, but there are actions that can be taken and maybe New Year is a good time to resolve to explore these. They include:
- Raising the awareness of the importance of local and central governments in your country considering extreme geohazards in risk registers;
- Looking at your organization’s immediate vulnerability to extreme geohazards and considering what actions could be taken if your organization is given an early warning of the increased likelihood of an extreme geohazard event occurring;
- Considering the supply chain implications of an extreme geohazard event: are any of your critical suppliers at higher risk from the impacts of extreme geohazards than others?
- What contingency plans could you make to manage the threat of the long term societal impacts of extreme geohazards? Air travel, power supply and other critical infrastructure elements could be impacted for months or even years.