Black Swan Events

Our risk register didn’t include Global Pandemic.  Did yours? Of course we have a Business Continuity plan, but that is generic and tends to assume denial of access to premises in an otherwise unchanged world.

Black Swan

High impact, low frequency events are sometimes called Black Swans. That shouldn’t be confused with the problem of induction in philosophy caused by generalizing about the properties of a class of objects based on a number of observations of particular instances of that class - for example, the inference that all swans are white because all the swans we have ever seen are white.

High impact, low frequency events are called Black Swans because they are events that come as a surprise, have a major effect, and are inappropriately rationalised post hoc.  The problem with them is that they’re infrequent so no one spends a lot of time on them.  In a sense, because of the rarity, that time isn’t warranted.  And even if you did spend time preparing (be sure that many Governments already have a pandemic playbook) reality turns out to be different from whatever you’ve planned for.

In the case of COVID-19, the playbook is likely based on SARS.  But whilst they’re both coronaviruses, they are different.  Although SARS is more deadly than COVID-19 (mortality of 10% versus low single digit percent, and hospitalisation with mechanical ventilation rates of 20-30% versus 20%), COVID-19 appears to transmit much more easily.  The cause appears to be viral load (all Black Swan events see technical terms gain common currency) which seems to be much higher much earlier in COVID-19 cases.

Water companies’ risk registers should also include serious water supply shortage including drought.  That’s a high impact event with increasing frequency.  Spelled out by the National Audit Office in the UK in a recent report.

A great tool for managing the early stages of a serious water supply shortage is Advanced Pressure Management.  You can turn down pressures gradually across the entire network from your computer before you need to impose any restrictions on customers.

Advanced Pressure Management is also a vital tool for the network in the current pandemic.  Pressure demands on networks are significantly changed by people staying at home and business activity reducing.  Advanced Pressure Management would automatically have dealt with this for you and maintained pressure in your network at the optimal level.  Without anyone needing to assess the situation, make calculations, and travel to any site to make adjustments.

The best thing we can do is to be prepared.  It’s hard to know what to do to prepare when you don’t know exactly what you’re preparing for.  But Advanced Pressure Management is the PPE of the network.  Whatever happens, you’ll benefit from having it.

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