Yesterday I commented that, at least from my own personal experience, the 7 July bombings had not led to increased interest in business continuity. That is not to say that the attacks did not have a lasting impact on the business continuity industry; and in today’s article I want to look at how the terrible events of that day shaped our thinking about risk.
The experience of the 7 July attacks, compounded by the attempted attacks in London two weeks later led many to predict that we faced a new reality, where such mass casualty attacks would be commonplace. As with previous terrorist incidents in the 1990s, the price of terrorism insurance rose sharply; and “attacks on transport” was still considered one of the highest likelihood risks when the first UK National Risk Register was compiled in 2009 (rated far more likely than “major transport accidents”). Thankfully this has not been the case and 7 July remains an isolated incident.
More broadly though, the 7 July attacks (together with, amongst others, the 9/11 attacks and the credit crunch in 2008) stimulated a vigorous debate within the business continuity community (and beyond) about threats that cannot realistically be foreseen, so called “black swan” events. Leaving aside the discussion of whether any of these particular incidents was truly a “black swan”; the central theme of this debate is very valid: we can never foresee all possible threats to an organisation so both people and plans must be flexible enough to deal with the unexpected.
In the next article, I will look at a more practical way in which the 7 July bombings have influenced business continuity practice.