Chaos and Confusion Following Unforeseen Risk

On the 20th March 2010, on the north-east side of Eyjafjallajökull, Mother Nature reminded the world she is master of all. The Icelandic volcano erupted and heralded the most disruptive chain of events in recent history.

On the 14th of April 2010, a phase of eruption ensued causing huge amounts of ice to melt. Serious flooding affected southern Iceland. Magma met with icy melt-water creating a plume of volcanic ash and gas over 33,000 feet high. South-eastern winds carried the ash cloud towards Norway and Southern Scotland. The volcano continued to emit puffs of ash that reached between 16,000 and 24,000 feet. Most of May was dominated by the cyclical activity and subsequent earthquakes and on the 23rd of May emission of ash became minimal.

Worldwide Disruption

The plume carried large amounts of microscopic particles of volcanic rock. These small abrasive particles clog jet engines and can cause very costly and potentially fatal damage. European airspace was badly affected and eventually shut down. At the peak of activity 19,000 flights per day were being cancelled. In total 100,000 flights were cancelled, leaving 10 million people unable to travel by air. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development stated the events cost the European economy nearly 5 billion Euros.

The havoc wreaking blanket of ash was not a risk that airlines felt they needed to manage. It was a low probability event, overlooked whilst compiling corporate objectives. But was it such a low risk, given the activity in Iceland and with other Asian eruptions commonplace?

With more extreme weather situations hitting the planet, outlandish scenarios are becoming ever more possible and with the UK subject to high levels of rainfall and snowmelt in winter, risk management plans should be structured to cover all eventualities.

ISO 31000:2009 Risk Management – Principles and Guidelines

United Parcel Service (UPS), thanks to a strong risk management plan, redirected air freight and used trucks for final destinations. As other businesses were on hold waiting for flights to resume, UPS continued to thrive.

ISO31000:2009 was developed to help commercial, industrial and public sector organisations to face risks and address uncertainty in a structured manner. Setting out principles, a framework and a process, it encouraged management to tailor specific needs rather than use a one-size-fits all approach. It may help you to recognise low probability risks. UPS factored in low probability risk as well as high, so when conditions kicked in they were well prepared to cope.

Revision of the Standard

As of this month, February 2017, the revision of ISO 31000:2009 has moved one step further from Committee Draft (CD) stage to Draft International Standard (DIS) stage; where it is now open to public comment. The key objective is to make things clearer and easier, using simpler language to be more understandable.

According to the Information Commissioner’s office (ICO):

“To avoid weighing down the standard and making it too complex, it was decided to reduce the terminology of ISO 31000 to the barebone concepts and move certain terms to ISO Guide 73, Risk management – Vocabulary, which deals specifically with risk management terminology and is intended to be read alongside ISO 31000.”

Rallivo can help you discover if every participant in the supply chain has planned for risk. Simply ask them to share their certificates. Our software leaves no room for ambiguity - the process is simple, instant and safe.

Going on vacation? If you have the risk of a few volcanoes on the flight route, it may be worth checking out the local UPS depots just in case!