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:

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: