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Preparing for High-Impact, Low-Probability Events

Lessons from Eyjafjallajökull

By Bernice Lee, Felix Preston, and Gemma Green

The frequency of “high-impact, low-probability” (HILP) events in the last decade—such as Hurricane Katrina, the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, and major floods in Pakistan and Thailand—signals the emergence of a new “normal.” In a world of globalized production and optimized supply chains, the impacts of HILP events spread rapidly and are felt on an international scale. This report examines the effects of the volcanic ash cloud that spread across Europe in April 2010 and draws lessons for other HILP events. It considers whether governments and the private sector are sufficiently prepared, how the global economy could be made more resilient, and the role of communications in a crisis.

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