It often feels like the news is filled with stories of more and more devastating natural disasters around the world. Even here in the UK, the perception is of an increasing incidence of extreme weather events; but, interestingly, data would suggest that this is not the case.
I recently came across the excellent EM-DAT Emergency Events Database (Université catholique de Louvain (UCL) – CRED, D. Guha-Sapir – www.emdat.be, Brussels, Belgium), from which the figures in the following table are taken.
So the number of severe weather events in the UK, the number of people impacted and the economic damage caused have all actually been less in the last ten years, compared to the previous ten years. In some cases, these reductions are quite significant. Without launching into the debate about man-made climate change, the practical message for business continuity managers is that the risk to UK businesses of severe weather events would appear to be stable (or event falling slightly). Nevertheless, many recent surveys have seen it rise up people’s lists of “top risks”.
This is just one example of how biases in how humans think can impact on our ability to accurately estimate risks. Fortunately this is not such a problem as you might first think – our free download Business Continuity Planning – Which Threats Should You Consider explains why.