'You can't scare me!'

The July 2006 e-mail newsletter from U.S. disaster recovery book distributor Rothstein Associates has an article on disaster statistics, the kind of numbers for which risk professionals dig like archaeologists sifting sand for pottery shards.

The July 2006 e-mail newsletter from U.S. disaster recovery book distributor Rothstein Associates has an article on disaster statistics, the kind of numbers for which risk professionals dig like archaeologists sifting sand for pottery shards.

The most useful number I unearthed: Of the U.S. companies which responded to a survey, 12 percent (1 in 8) got lower insurance rates because they had a BCP. If it can be shown that some companies actually save money by preparing a BCP, well... that would be the Holy Grail of justifications, wouldn't it?

The Rothstein Associates newsletter also had the familiar "Fright Night" fatality figures: 43 percent of companies never recover from a disaster and 25 percent more go out of business within two years.

I find such numbers frightful, but not helpful.

No one is ever persuaded to start on a contingency plan because of stories or pictures of disasters that happened to other people. No manager I know ever looked at pictures of a disaster--no matter how close to his own office--and said, 'Gosh! Isn't that awful! We better prepare a business continuity plan'. There is no connection between the fact that 'it happened to them' and the possibility that 'therefore, it could happen to us'.

Other findings: the No. 1 cause of disasters is boo-boos, not bombs. Forty-three percent of respondents experienced human error, but only 1.5 percent had experienced terror or sabotage (and I bet most of those were sabotage). That makes mistakes about 30 times more likely than misdeeds: someone flips the wrong switch, presses the wrong button, or loads the wrong program.

I think I'll start wearing a lapel button to planning meetings that says "Error, Not Terror".

From such factual fragments, planners--like archaeologists--hope to reconstruct an irrefutable view of history. And it works about as well for both professions, I figure.

The facts were assembled from public sources, also cited in the article. You can dig for your own numerical nuggets here.

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