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Tim Harford on why we fail to prepare for disasters

Geoff Riley

16th April 2020

This article by Tim Harford provides quite brilliant analysis and reflection and I urge everyone to take ten minutes to read it.

Why we fail to prepare for disasters is packed with examples of behavioural biases that affect us as individuals and within communities. And it captures the ways in which policy-makers - who themselves often regard themselves as largely immune to the consequences of disasters - delay their responses and under-invest in the capacity of health care and other systems to be resilient in the face of a crisis.

"While politicians have access to the best advice, they may not feel obliged to take experts seriously. Powerful people, after all, feel sheltered from many everyday concerns."

“Unpredictability is often not the problem. The problem is that faced with clear risks, we still fail to act.”

Some great links are built into the article to psychological research and recent books on risk and disaster management.

See also: How Psychological Biases Shaped My Response to This Pandemic (March 2020)

Mental bias leaves us unprepared for disaster (Tim Harford, FT< March 2017)

Geoff Riley

Geoff Riley FRSA has been teaching Economics for over thirty years. He has over twenty years experience as Head of Economics at leading schools. He writes extensively and is a contributor and presenter on CPD conferences in the UK and overseas.

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