Chapter 2: Which Risk and Who Decides When There Are So Many Players?
Donald Macrae 2.1 INTRODUCTION There was a time that a voyage across the North Atlantic involved praying to Thor and Odin for calm seas and favourable winds but these old practices have fallen into disuse. For a few months in 2010, prayers may have become appropriate again, for favourable winds to blow away the cloud of volcanic ash that could prevent a ﬂight to North America from many places in Europe. Whether modern risk-management systems are more effective than praying to the Norse gods is beyond the scope of this chapter but we certainly saw a time when many of the advances of modern life disappeared and Fate seemed to reassert itself in all its pre-Cartesian power. To have been a catastrophe, people would have had to have died and it is a feature of this incident that nobody is know to have died as a direct result of volcanic ash in jet engines. But the image of catastrophic engine failure that captured imaginations in the ﬁrst two days soon faded as millions of lesser disasters and inconveniences surfaced across the globe. It was a remarkable instance of the possibility of a severe loss being set against the certainty of multiple lesser losses, a risk equation that is always difﬁcult to manage. It all seemed a bit of a mess as well. Could it have been handled better? This chapter tries to analyze the situation using the methodology developed by the UK’s Risk and Regulation Advisory Council to manage...
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