Top Five Disasters

Top 5 disasters that influence resilience

Disaster Lessons Learned

The top five disasters that influence resilience practice are easy to call out. Crisis events that will impact resilience have widespread economic and sociopolitical overtones. Interconnectedness is the theme that comes to mind as I write this. Each of my picks highlights the global aspect of today’s business environment. It also calls out the gaps in our preparedness. 

More than ever, the world needs resilience planning. Business resilience is critical to company survival. But, an organization is not an island. A corporation consists of many people, and effective service execution relies on external partnerships. Resilience needs to embrace a roundtable approach that makes connections across the organization and without. Increased agility enables customers, employees, contractors, suppliers, vendors, and communities to overcome adversity.  

Resilience Lessons from COVID


We all know that, on the whole, plans failed to be flexible or comprehensive enough to protect us from the worldwide event the pandemic became. Yet, the disaster forced many operations groups to come together in a way not experienced previously. For resilience, this synergy provides an opportunity better protect and mitigate future crises.

 I’ve written about the benefits of operational and organizational resilience methodologies. It’s up to us to put old territorial concerns aside and embrace a unified approach. In short, preventing crisis events from escalating means identifying risks early. Then, when an incident occurs, the company minimizes damage due to the benefits of an established resilience framework. 

How protest events impact resilience

Civil unrest protests

I’m cheating a little bit here. Instead of naming a single protest, I’m highlighting a series of civil unrest events from 2020 through 2022. Racial unrest in the United States sparked widespread community protests. The death of George Floyd fanned the flames and spread outrage to other countries. Safety concerns translated into increased security measures, business disruptions, and worry about employee well-being. 

However, the farmer’s protest in India was historic in size and scope. The passage of government regulations during the pandemic directly impacted India’s agriculture. Tens of thousands protested, with whole families involved. In solidarity, an estimated 250 million workers took to the streets. In a country where half of the population exists from farming, the results were disastrous. 

Then, this leads me to recognize both protests against COVID restrictions and eco-activists in support of environmental protections. These movements directly impacted businesses. Healthy organizations will leverage resilience practices to prepare for regulatory, community, vendor, and ESG impacts. To prevent crisis, resilience professionals must take a 360 view of risks. 

Natural Disasters are rising in severity

Rising impact and cost of natural disasters

In this category, the hits keep coming. U.S. News has a good piece on The 10 Unforgettable U.S. Natural Disasters of the 2010s. In the US, Maria, a CAT 4 hurricane that hit Puerto Rico in 2017, tops this list, causing extensive damage to a tune of $93.6 billion. However, it was also one of the United States’ deadliest storms. The official death toll is still unknown, but estimates are that 4,600 people died. Hurricane Maria displaced much of the island’s population, with over 300 thousand homes destroyed. 

Globally, it is hard to quantify the worst disaster in the last half-decade. Overall, the economic costs are rising while death tolls are declining. As resilience professionals, the threat of natural disasters continues to top the scales for most of us monitoring crises. Although familiar, they are also the most costly in lives, community disruption, and economic effects. 

Cyber attacks impact resilience

Colonial pipeline cyber attack

I raise the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack to highlight how an event can have internal and external ramifications. On May 7, 2021, a ransomware attack hit this supplier, caused by a lost password. As defenders of our company’s data, we should recognize that each employee is a vital link in a fragile chain whose failure has catastrophic impacts. Claroty’s independent report surveyed over a thousand companies–of the 80% hit, 60% paid the ransom. This approach conflicts with governments ‘ orders not to pay.

The FBI reported that the Ragnar Locker ransomware gang attacked more than 50 critical infrastructure entities in January 2022. For resilience professionals, it means an increased focus on the threat of cyber-attacks. It also reminds us of the fragility that widespread interconnectedness brings. In a world where bad actors continue to seek opportunities, continued vigilance is essential.

Learnings from Ukrainian conflict

Ukrainian conflict

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is unresolved. The war has far-reaching implications, coming on the heels of the de-escalating COVID pandemic. It confirms the alarm bells we’ve raised for years about the risk to supply chains and vendors. Many of Ukraine’s youth are in the IT industry, providing a wealth of low-cost and high-performing workforce. Time will tell how significant the loss will be and resilient the citizens are. 

The Ukrainian people appear robust, flexible, interconnected, and display a solid capacity to bounce back. You can translate this programmatically to the importance of developing employees who can pivot quickly, handle stress, and are efficient problem solvers. As with a nation, you want cultural cohesion across your company that serves to mitigate impacts.

Resilience Process Value

Looking ahead by seeing what's behind us

Well, that rounds out my top five disasters that will influence resilience activities in the years ahead. Do you agree with my choices? Let me know in the comment section below. I always appreciate your insights and engagement. I am solidly in the camp that believes that you are doomed to repeat the past if you don’t learn from it.

If you are looking for a deeper dive analysis of disasters, check out my 2019 blog on Natural Disasters – A Five Year Review. Sadly, the severity and ferocity of disaster events are rising. The article provides an in-depth overview of the top natural events devastating communities worldwide. Additionally, it analyses what the data is predicting. 

3 thoughts on “Top Five Disasters”

  1. I will share your article with our business resiliency stakeholders to stress these disruptive events are not what happens “elsewhere” but can happen to any company. Cybercrime, civil unrest, global conflict, and pandemics are actual events that people can see. I am particularly concerned about the increased severity of weather events, tornado outbreaks in December (Iowa experienced the single worst day for tornadoes that month), an ongoing wildfire season, and warmer coastal water’s effect on hurricane intensification. Those events impact our buildings, but more importantly, they increase the risk to our team members throughout the country.

  2. Very much appreciated the article Ashley. Civil Unrest is a situation that does not get much attention, but can certainly be disruptive. Thanks for shining the light on it.

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