The earth’s lifespan has likely seen thousands of volcanoes while recorded eruptions stand roughly at 550, of which 50 to 70 erupt each year. Recently, new activity has been noticed in 6 volcanoes while ongoing activity has been recorded at 12 volcanoes. Notable among these include Etna in Italy, Kilauea in Hawaii, Bardarbunga in Iceland, Sinabung in Indonesia, Poas in Costa Rica and Mount Ontake volcano in southern Japan. Just as types of volcanoes vary due to their inherent scientific reasons, so do their consequences, based on locations, proximity to business establishments and population, and their longevity.
Although volcanic eruptions are mostly predictable, allowing human lives to be saved, sometimes they surprise the watchers and responsible parties. The Mt. Ontake volcano, which erupted on September 17, is reported to have killed more than forty people and injured as many. While loss and injury to humans creates heartbreaking stories, they imperil the balance in nature, elicit losses of irreparable and devastating proportions, and disrupt business continuity across the world.
All these establish is that volcanoes are real threats that exist on all continents and impact all types of businesses. On the other hand, there are some pertinent challenges in volcanic risk management , which threaten to impair any strategies developed to combat the effects of events that cannot be prevented, irrespective of the scale and efficiency of preventive methodologies. However, co-existence alongside threats, competent strategies to limit risk exposure coupled with decisions to avoid to risk scenarios with no potential benefits, and turning challenges in to opportunities have been the cornerstone of success for modern day entrepreneurs.
Devising out mitigation strategies has been fundamental to volcanic risk management. Government authorities, scientists and business organizations need to develop an integrated approach to assess all related threats. Thereupon, these entities – adequately aided by crisis management professionals and different stakeholders involved in risk management within an enterprise – must join hands to efficiently manage volcanic risks. While scientists should engage in volcano monitoring, all stakeholders – including the senior management and the IT team – need to share perspectives to eliminate efficiency blinds, and crisis management professionals need to shield the business operations.
The parties involved must set out after agreeing on the objectives of the mitigation strategies. This should be followed by seeking answers to: How to achieve the objectives? Here, the key points to drive the developments should include: Damage prevention, preparedness to tackle adverse situations, crisis management and building resilience. A set of carefully selected objectives that are relevant and practical are the minimum prerequisites to mitigate volcanic risks.
Failures in risk management, be it in IT security, oil and gas, insurance or healthcare, have seldom resulted from the inability or unwillingness to set objectives. They have too often been the outcome of not making enough efforts to pursue the desired goals. While governments, civil agencies and businesses have generally shown enough enthusiasm to develop volcanic risk mitigation strategies, execution of tasks to reach the goals have often times been feeble. Therefore, avoiding the bad practices of grand preparation and feeble execution combined with a relentless pursuit of the set objectives, by implementing necessary safeguards, is of vital importance in the mitigation of volcanic risks.
Threats and risks posed by volcanic eruptions are unique primarily due the dynamics of the problem and the types and levels of consequences. Therefore, the solutions need to be unique enough to cope with a risk type that could acquire new dimensions along with the passage of time. For example, consider the case of re-eruption of volcanoes believed to be extinct. The Mount Pinatubo, which remained dormant without any volcanic burp for more than 500 years, erupted in the last decade of the past century making it the second-largest volcanic catastrophe of the 20th century. Thankfully, human death toll was not as high because of aggressive monitoring after some initial signs and efficient, large-scale evacuation within a short period of time. Scenarios like these necessitate that the risk management framework remains invisible yet ensures the maximum damage prevention.
Just as collaboration with authorities in matters of risk management brings more efficiency to business performance than it is viewed to be, cooperation with civil defense agencies is of paramount importance to withstand the challenges volcanic risk management. A fruitful partnership enables to adopt a multi-risk approach, brings support during crisis and arranges the necessary support post disaster. On the other hand, joining hands with a technology partner brings in cost efficient tools for monitoring risks. A robust solution helps in the assessment of vulnerability. Such tools work as integrated information systems that enhance resilience and ensure sustaining business performance in a risk-intensive world.