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Risk planning lessons must be learned from UK flooding says Institute of Risk Management

The recent flooding episode has highlighted shortcomings in the UK government’s approach to risk events says Chairman of the Institute of Risk Management, Richard Anderson.

“The terrible flooding in Somerset and the Thames has brought into sharp focus the ‘fingers crossed’ and ‘touching wood’ approach to risk management strategy that is so often adopted by government. It is regrettable that this seems to be the default mechanism to approaching all manner of risks. It is an appalling state of affairs because we understand how to manage risk better now than we ever have in the past. Since the flooding we have seen lots of frenetic activity from government officials which is unproductive and the government would be better served by seeking the advice of the increasing cadre of expert risk professionals who are largely being ignored at the moment.

“Routine risk thinking tends to be handled at a very junior level in government. Much of it is no more than painting by numbers as committees consider whether a risk should be red, amber or green. Most risks are considered in isolation of other risks materialising. That is not what happens in real life: in real life as one thing hits, another does straight after, and another and another. The interdependence of multiple impact risks needs to be managed far more professionally.

“Of course better risk management is not just pertinent to flood risk. It is pertinent to a whole raft of risk scenarios which may strike at any time in the future. Government needs to build its risk management capabilities so that we plan, develop information sources, reduce risk likelihood and build resilience in economically and socially viable ways.”

The Institute of Risk Management says that the UK government should:

  • Appoint a Head of Profession for risk management, possibly based in the Cabinet Office.
  • Every department should have a senior civil servant who is responsible for risk management.
  • Risk management should be a core competency for all civil servants with training and certification to an appropriate level for their principal roles.
  • Appoint a panel of experts and interested parties to learn the risk management lessons from the current flooding incidents. These lessons should be fed back into the Cabinet Committee on Flooding and to all senior Ministers and departments.
  • Commission an independent review of how risk is managed at departmental level.
  • Appoint a panel of experts to ensure that modern risk management thinking is appropriate to government and embedded effectively.
  • Review scenario plans to ensure that the interdependence of risks is considered across government rather than each risk being considered in isolation.


•Date: 13th March 2014 • UK •Type: Article • Topic: Emergency planning

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