Dr Sally Leivesley
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Catastrophic Risk: Overview

Newrisk Limited specialises in catastrophic and extreme risk incidents and is available to advise both organisations and governments on methods of identifying, calculating and mitigating the effects of catastrophic and extreme risk incidents.

Catastrophic Risk

  1. Catastrophic Risk Assessment
  2. Catastrophic Risk Mitigation
  3. Catastrophic Policy Preparation
  4. Catastrophic Risk Crisis Operations
  5. Catastrophic Risk Exercising

Catastrophic risk assessment
identifies critical functions of systems and the environment linked to the systems where failures will cause a loss of stability and change to the system.   Early theoretical work on this field included sudden bridge collapses, the rise and fall of waves in the sea and the psychological breakdown of animals when an overwhelming led to indecision on whether to react with flight or fight.  

Catastrophic risk mitigation delivers an output that quantifies vulnerabilities and consequences, the effectiveness of controls and offers solutions that may be physical, cyber, human factor or any combination of innovations that will reduce the residual risk to an acceptable level defined by a company or government. 

Catastrophic risk exercising - Stress testing of decision making and technical paths for failure within systems through graduated scenarios  may start with desktop, floor layout events, computer simulation and field modular tests for catastrophic impacts.  All stress testing is limited to short time intervals where the critical decisions and operational actions can be measured and feedback can be given to the organisation to strengthen the system. Short exercises can be 5 minutes in communications tests or an hour for a whole of facility field exercise or international video and field exercise operation.  Longer tests may be required for some technology to be proved adequately and organisations can be encouraged to integrate testing as a low cost high benefit activity within their business processes. 

Catastrophic Operational risk assessments are conducted within organisations and work on the basis of recognising key internal organisational strengths as these strengths are the key to mitigating catastrophic risks if unusual events threaten the organisation, its supply chain or markets.  

The outputs of catastrophic risk work with companies and governments are:

  1. Guides to decision making in a crisis and communications with workforce and stakeholders
  2. Identifying top threats to critical functions including unexpected risks in the operation and then preparing a range of solutions available to maintain the stability of the organisation.
  3. Working with technical teams within the organisation for analysis of new design risks and intervention at design stage to reduce costs of risk reduction through the life cycle of the activity or structure.  
  4. Identification of risks from international and national events which may impact on an organisation in ways outside

Catastrophic risk mitigation
involves a multidisciplinary approach to identification of factors in the threat horizon defined by all fields of science and an analysis of systems vulnerabilities – physical, human factors, cyber, environmental, operational processes, technical, commercial and any other emerging vulnerability that may be observed in a company, a government operation, an international connected set of activities.

The different outputs of catastrophic risk assessments and traditional risk assessments are in the top threat events where probability analysis cannot operate with an acceptable level of certainty.    Many factors, often unrecognised in advance, may come together to create an event which causes irrecoverable loss.  ‘Irrecoverable’ means that a critical component of a system has been lost to the system which causes a change in the systems state- there is a collapse in the system into another state.

Catastrophic Risk Policy preparation is a service that works with organisations on how to integrate catastrophic risk into the policies of the company through dynamic monitoring of top threats to the company or government activity that may cause a collapse of its operation and a requirement for effective change management in response to the event.  The usual stimulus to assess catastrophic risk policy is an event which has caused a recognised failure in an iconic system or company or government and where other operations around the world wish to avoid a similar problem.   An active catastrophic risk policy requires a methodology that works on a real time horizon scanning and interactive risk profiling to give context to immediate policy decisions and operational objectives. 

Catastrophic Risk Crisis Operations - Newrisk Limited works with catastrophic events in real time and in assessing vulnerabilities to future events within industries ranging across all fields of activity including financial, transport, energy, social conflict, terrorism and international conflicts.   These are described in the range of services listed within the Newrisk website links in the introduction to Newrisk (see www.Newrisk.com) and range from Aviation to Transport and Terrorism.

For previous lectures, conferences, publications and commentary on catastrophic risk, please click here.

Newrisk Limited is able to provide a variety of services to organisations and governments in connection with catastrophic risk. To request a service or discuss a tailored package of services, please contact Newrisk Limited directly.

Other Areas of Expertise

Newrisk Limited's areas of expertise cover the preparation for, and response to, catastrophic and extreme risk events as well as major incidents and business continuity.

Dr Leivesley is, on behalf of Newrisk Limited, ideally qualified to provide advisory services to organisations and governments and her practice background, publications, presentations and media are listed under the following areas of expertise:

Audit Assurance Risk Aviation Expertise Biological Expertise CBRNE Expertise Chemical Threats Continuity Planning Expertise Criminal Justice Expertise Cyber Security Expertise Defence and Policing Expertise Disasters Expertise Education Expertise Emergency Services Expertise Explosives Incidents Financial Threats Expertise Insurance Expertise London in 2012 Nuclear Incidents Radiological Incidents Reputation Management Expertise Risk Management Expertise Terrorism & Security Expertise Transportation Security Expertise

To request Newrisk Limited's assistance in connection with any of these areas of expertise or to discuss a tailored package of services, please contact Newrisk Limited directly.



Sally Leivesley



  • Cyber
  • Nuclear

Prepare for the unexpected. New forms of attack will be unexpected in time, tactics and consequences and may include kinetic attacks on undersea cables and space infrastructure. 

Questions to Consider:
Does the organisation have a capacity to fast switch to other cloud, in-house server or hot site operations to limit recovery time? Are there diagnostics for sensors and control systems and the interface with operations?  Could a global security crisis in the South and East China Seas and flash points elsewhere (including Europe) target an organisation’s upstream cyber providers?  Other resilience tasks to check are:

  • - Competent external recovery services;
  • - Internal policies for real time back- up systems unconnected to live operations;
  • - Financial resources for full re-build after ransomware;
  • - Internal policies to avert ransomware payments; 
  • - Cooperative recovery planning with industry peers;
  • - Regular modular and  whole of organisation exercises;
- Multiple scenario tests for strength of preparedness.

 Nations signalling intent of conflict.
 Energy regeneration challenges.

Nuclear conflict and radiation incidents are a high risk for some regions.  Nations are engaging in
‘signalling’ capability of weapons and intent. The most frequent signals are coming from China in
relation to Taiwan; the USA in relation to freedom of navigation in the South China Sea; Russia in
sending Zircon hypersonic missiles onto naval voyages into the Atlantic, movement of nuclear
weapons to Belarus and threats to Ukraine; North Korea in frequency of missile tests including
submarine launched missiles and drones; and Iran’s apparent nuclear enrichment found to be at
84% purity.

Planning for Energy Regeneration Post Nuclear Conflict:
1. Hardened energy infrastructure;
2. Academic and Industry collaborative Programmes;
3. Small Modular Reactors built underground;
4. Supplemental critical control system separated from IOT; and
5. Energy planning for rail transportation of populations.