Foreseeability and predictability in risk assessments

Foreseeability and predictability in risk assessments

Jan 6th, 2021

The discussion of terms such as Foreseeability and predictability in risk assessments is rather common. Like usual, at Riskope we like to have an extremely clear glossary, in order to avoid blunders due to miscommunication.

Foreseeability and predictability in risk assessments

Foreseeability and predictability in risk assessments

Foreseeability is the facility to perceive, know in advance, or reasonably anticipate that damage or injury will probably ensue from acts or omissions. A foreseeable event or situation is one that can be known about or guessed before it happens. We apply it to consequences: can we foresee the damage generated by a (predicted) hazard hit based on present or future mitigation and policies/actions?

Predictability is the state of knowing what something is like, when something will happen, etc. We apply it to hazards: can we predict the magnitude and the frequency of a hazard?

A scenario that has low predictability and low foreseeability can easily land in the blind spot quadrant or in the unknown one. Indeed one can decide to declare that scenario as unknown, while “the public sees it”. In that case one is creating a blind spot. Alternatively, if one considers that the public also does not know, then the scenario would land in the unknown quadrant. 

Of course, the role of a good risk approach is to reduce uncertainties.  By doing so the two quadrants reduce to the advantage of the arena and façade ones.

Usual and usual extreme hazards

“Usual” hazards, including their “usual extremes”, are predictable and foreseeable. They have a relative narrow margin of uncertainty, provided interdependencies and systemic amplification are properly considered.

Divergent hazards are unpredictable insofar their frequency (at a given magnitude level) “explodes”, e.g. three hundred years rain events in one year. Their foreseeability may also reduce due to various internal or external reasons. Because “wounded systems” are less robust and consequences may get amplified. Think about massive fires leading then to erosion, slopes failures, etc., in case of rain.

In a blogpost we will soon publish, we will of course discuss “business as usual” from a risk assessment, tactical and strategic planning point of view.

Closing remarks on foreseeability and predictability in risk assessments

In our days and age it is paramount to clarify our technical glossary. The discussion of terms such as Foreseeability and predictability in risk assessments is very important. That is to ensure transparent and unequivocal communications to all stakeholders in projects and operations.

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Category: Consequences, Hazard, Probabilities, Risk analysis

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