Last night, shortly before midnight, Coniston in the Lake District was at the centre of an earthquake measuring 3.6 on the Richter scale. Fortunately there are no reports of injuries. Whilst earthquakes are not a major problem in the UK they do have an interesting, if somewhat indirect, relevance to Risk Management.
The severity of earthquakes follows a ‘Power-Law Distribution’, that is to say, earthquakes that kill 100 people are about 10 times as frequent as earthquakes that kill 1000 people and so on. Interestingly, the severity of many other phenomena, natural and man-made, also follow this same distribution. Examples include forest fires, power outages and terrorist attacks. This provides us with a simple but powerful tool for managing risks as it allows us to estimate the likelihood of high-impact (even catastrophic) events from the observed frequency of routine and relatively minor incidents.