Riblet#37: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Risk management is all about identifying significant risks, understanding them fully, and then managing them through controls to an acceptable level that you can live with.  In an organisation, as well as in a country as a whole, you have to communicate the understanding of risks so that people might comply with the controls required, rather than perhaps undermining them unwittingly.

If Covid-19 persists for months or even years (see Riblet#29 for a historical analogy: https://ceres-risk.com/2020/06/19/riblet29-history-doesnt-repeat-itself-but-it-often-rhymes-mark-twain/ ) then we all need to navigate our way through the risk landscape in order that the economy, education, entertainment, etc keep functioning.  

To take just one example, concerns have been expressed about air travel.  If you are sitting in a confined space for several hours with a few hundred other people and with the air circulating between you all, then you might decide that this is not a risk worth taking.  Arnold Barnett, a professor of statistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has calculated the risk of catching Covid-19 on a two-hour flight as 0.023%, which is less likely than the risk of being killed by a falling meteorite. You might also express the risk as a 99.977% likelihood that you will not catch Covid-19 on a two-hour flight.  Barnett calculates that the risk is reduced still further if seats are left empty between passengers.

Part of the communication of this risk might include that air filtration systems on planes change out 100% of a cabin’s air every 2-3 minutes, or that some airlines deep clean between every flight.  You might also want to understand what the infection risk is at the airports you use and at your ultimate destination.

The issue for many is that these risks and the controls that mitigate them are not communicated either clearly enough, frequently enough, or widely enough, and are therefore not well understood.  

The countries that have so far handled Covid-19 exceptionally well, such as Vietnam, New Zealand and Germany, all appear to have taken pains to communicate very clearly.  Surely they deserve the flattery of being copied.

Data Sources: www.forbes.comwww.independent.ie

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