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Survival instinct

In the March issue of this magazine we wrote about the rising risk from weather events, how the bigger variety had become more commonplace and why smaller businesses need to manage that risk just as FTSE-100s do. Weeks later we’re faced with image after image of utter devastation in Japan, where a magnitude 9.0 earthquake caused 30-foot waves to wash away entire towns. As I write, we await news on whether the country also faces nuclear disaster.

This has happened to a country well used to facing nature’s force, one of the planet’s most safety-conscious nations. But I have been surprised to read analyst reports saying that Japan may actually end 2011 on a better fiscal footing than it had planned for before the tsunami hit, because it can move much of the affected manufacturing production elsewhere with relative ease and because it had contingency plans in place for severe situations that it learned from previous earthquakes, most notably Kobe in 1995. Their entire lives erased in seconds, it seems the Japanese are just getting on with surviving. Their resilience is astounding.

Britons rarely consider themselves at risk from catastrophes of that scale: those are reserved for more exotic locales, while we get years of wet weekends. But we didn’t expect our banks to collapse either. It goes to show that planning for the unthinkable is more important than ever. The UK must take note. We may be an island, but we are not impervious to calamity.

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