Resilience key as UK tests emergency alerts capabilities

As mobile phone users across Great Britain were issued with the test of the new UK Emergency Alerts system this weekend the Royal Academy of Engineering has said risk managers need to improve their resilience systems despite the challenges it may pose.

The Royal Academy of Engineering has published a report of its review of the UK 2019 National Security Risk Assessment (NSRA) methodology, which sets out the lessons learned from an engineering perspective on the UK’s central risk assessment.

The NSRA outlines and assesses the most significant risks facing the country and informs plans to mitigate those risks. In 2021, the Cabinet Office’s Civil Contingencies Secretariat commissioned the Academy to review the methodology behind the 2019 NSRA. The report Building resilience: lessons from the Academy’s review of the National Security Risk Assessment methodology summarises the findings, which fed into the National Resilience Framework published at the end of 2022.

“Engineers are trained to examine complex systems, assess risks and their propagation, and construct systems for safety and resilience,” the report stated. “Building upon its previous work on risk and resilience and the cross-sector experience of its Fellows, the Academy examined a range of practices from industries such as nuclear and chemical and explored a breadth of risks close to engineering, from cyber threats to flooding.”

Through case studies and interviews with major private and public sector risk owners, the Academy examined the lessons relevant to risk owners of all types and focused on techniques for scenario design, exploring interdependencies, and building organisational resilience. Seven principles for good practice were identified to help organisations to employ a joined-up approach to risk assessment that strengthens resilience in practice, helping to build toward the government’s goal of “making resilience a national endeavour, so that as a country is we are prepared for the next crisis, whatever it might be”. The seven principles are:

  • Ensure a joined-up approach
  • Encourage participation and communicate clearly
  • Focus on impact
  • Explore the interdependencies
  • Consider a range of scenarios#
  • Embed new data and metrics
  • Review based on need

The review also made some practical recommendations based on the limitations of the 2019 methodology, 12 of which were intended for immediate implementation and are referenced in the National Resilience Framework. A further recommendation presented a more radical, alternative ‘blank page’ approach.

Professor Joan Cordiner FREng FRSE, who led the Academy’s review of the NSRA, said: “This review has been an opportunity to learn from a diverse range of industry sectors, academia, and government. We are pleased that the review is referenced in the National Resilience Framework and I encourage all those with a stake or responsibility in risk management to reflect upon the extent to which the principles for good practice are incorporated in their risk assessments, and to act upon them.

“Implementing the lessons learned will not necessarily be easy, as risk, resilience, and organisational culture are closely intertwined. But with the lived experience of the COVID-19 pandemic, now is the time to foster a resilience-oriented culture that drives action to make the UK a safer, more prepared nation for everyone.”