Disasters may be natural and man-made, avoidable and unavoidable. There is little that can be done to prevent a natural catastrophic event such as an earthquake, volcanic eruption, cyclone or tsunami from wreaking great havoc. When cyclone Tracey destroyed Darwin on Christmas Day, 1974, the consequences in terms of loss of life and damage to buildings and property were unavoidable.
Natural catastrophic events do not necessarily have to result in disasters: a variety of precautions can be taken to reduce the impact on life and damage to property and the environment. Thus, the disastrous outcome when the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plan was hit by a tsunami on 11 March 2011 was found, in the resulting enquiry, to be man- made, with the consequences of such an event foreseeable.
On the other hand, man-made disasters such as the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, or the sinking of the Korean ferry Sewol on 15 April 2014, or almost every workplace incident resulting in death or injury to person or equipment are avoidable.
Statistics has a vital role to play in all of these situations. Much technical work has been directed into forecasting natural disasters. In the area of man-made disasters, Statistics has long played a role in managing risk, for example through actuarial calculation. However, there are important situations where Statistics has contributed rather less than it might, perhaps because there is rather less technical challenge. It is some of these areas that are the focus for this talk: how can Statistics help avoid another Global Financial Crisis, another ferry disaster, and more workplace deaths and injuries?