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Thursday, 19 January 2017

Do you understand the concept of risk?

Well, that's not easy to answer. For most of us, the answer is most probably: “It depends”. There is however a very basic test, which could at least be a starting point. The test rates your “risk literacy”. If you don’t fail the test an important next step is to articulate your risk understanding as I am discussing in the post "Risk Communication within military decision-making: pedagogic considerations".
The test at riskliteracy.org can be found here. GOOD LUCK!
If you do the Risk Literacy test, you will also contribute to risk research.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Risk Communication within military decision-making: pedagogic considerations

(c) H. Liwång 2016.
New article published in Defense and Security Analysis, 2017, Vol 33 no 1 on the topic of Risk Communication within military decision-making:
Today, several nations and organizations employ risk-based approaches to analyze the level of security in military operations.  There are strengths to applying risk-based approaches to support military decisions, but there are also challenges.  Many of these challenges are not recognized in doctrines or handbooks.  For civilian risk-based approaches an important discussion exist on the strengths and weaknesses of approaches and tools used.  However, the discussions on problems or limitations with military approaches are few.
From experience with civilian risk-based approaches, it is clear that the safety culture in general will affect both risk management and risk communication. A military unit often trains for both warfighting and peace-keeping, two activities that require completely different cultures and risk understanding.  Therefore, there are substantial challenges for risk communication within a military context relative to the organizational culture.
Both the areas presented above and research show that the challenge for military organizations in relation to risk management is a challenge on how the risk understanding should be related to the specific organization’s tasks and context. Although the traditional pedagogic view on risk communication, in which the receiver must be taught “the right risk understanding”, has been abandoned, there are still important pedagogic aspects of risk communication to investigate, especially in inter-organization communication. The aim of this study was to increase the understanding of risk communication in the military context and to describe how a military organization should train to create a good environment for effective risk communication. Therefore, this study analyzes military risk and risk communication in relation to ontology, epistemology, communication and leadership to identify central pedagogical aspects of risk communication so these aspects can be implemented in military education and training. The study focuses on the needs presented by communicating the risk analysis results to a military decision-maker. However, other types of military risk communication are also touched on in the discussion.
The risk management doctrines are formative to their nature, but to a large extent they limit their formative aspects to the form of the risk management, i.e., a process description, and leave the risk understanding ungoverned. In the study it is identified that many challenges relate to this ungogoverned risk understanding and how it is shared but also to whether it is dynamic. The understanding must be dynamic, but the form of the risk management must also be dynamic and able to change if the decision settings change.
This study has studied the inter-organizational aspects of risk between the analyst and the decision maker where all involved parties exist within the same organization. This means that all involved have a possibility to prepare. However, there is also a need for military organizations to perform risk communication to the public and from the decision maker to military personnel in general. In such cases, the pedagogic challenges are different. The relevant areas are most likely the same but cannot be overcome by preparing the different involved parties. For example, when communicating military risk to the public, the “risk communicator” must try to capture the risk understanding of the public and must adopt and perform a dialog. This creates even more challenging demands for a developed risk understanding and for the communicator to be able to articulate their understanding in the communication.
Both military personnel in general and the public need to make decisions from time to time in which risk information from military decision makers is a factor. If this information needs to be used constructively, the receiver of the risk information needs to be able to understand the magnitude of the risk. If the risk information is not precise or understood as such, the persons involved will resort to traditional gut feelings that are influenced by past experiences and emotion for making risk management decisions.
If the value of the risk information shall inform decisions, there is a need for the public, military personnel and decision makers to be accustomed to discussing risk. How this is achieved depends on how risk and risk information are perceived. In a regulatory prescriptive setting, the value and results of a risk assessment can be reduced to a number (risk estimate = consequence × probability) that is compared to an acceptable level of risk; if the risk is lower than the set limit, a solution or an alternative is deemed as safe and can be used. However, in a dynamic setting, a risk assessment could and should be allowed to contribute holistically to understanding the decision context, i.e., the risk assessment is one way to explore the options and learn more about them. In such cases, the first of the aspects that should be included in the analysis and be involved in the assessment output is information about the uncertainties, which then also connects the output to the assumptions made and the system understanding used.
A more comprehensive approach on how to understand the contributions from risk management is also in line with scholars’ descriptions of the “New View” of safety, with its emphasis on whole systems and on the connection between the social and the artefactual as well as the need for “applying systems thinking on complex crisis situations to gain holistic understandings of the operational environments”.  It is also likely that an exploratory use of risk assessments will support the warfighter's ambitions to view risk management thinking as a “battle appreciation” rather than a constraint.
The study shows that the organization’s risk understanding is central. The risk management processes selected should, however, reflect the risk understanding used in the organization. The risk understanding of the organization will, for example, govern which consequences are studied and will therefore guide the tool selection.
It is therefore important for the organization to define and consistently use a shared risk understanding. Such a shared risk understanding will need a systematic development process that focuses on education and training for the future decision makers and analysts. This education and training cannot limit itself to merely describing the form of the risk management process. To reach understanding, all involved parties must have the chance to identify the problem, reflect on its implications, test different solutions and develop a solution.
Civilian work has shown that using well-developed examples that include relevant risk levels, uncertainty and variability are effective to achieve this. The pedagogical considerations in relation to risk communication within military decision-making are thus a pedagogical challenge that is related more to philosophy and, in particular, epistemology than to the organizations’ processes and tools.
 
Reference

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Conditions for risk based ship survivability approach: a study on the analysis of fire risk


Published article:Liwång, H. (2016). Conditions for risk based ship survivability approach: a study on the analysis of fire risk. Naval Engineers Journal, 128(3), 31-45.
Some comments from the article
The purpose for introducing a risk-based approach is to identify risks in the intended operation of the ship and use this information to guide the concept development and ship design using a risk-based ship design approach. The uncertainty in the design decision making is generally high when novel concepts are developed. Therefore, a rational ship design support process is necessary to avoid erroneous assumptions that affect design choices. Risk analysis is a knowledge model that may reduce this uncertainty. Based on this need, the proposed analysis models are in this paper used to identify critical aspects and gaps in the analysis process, specifically for naval ships.
Risk controls must be analyzed with respect to susceptibility, vulnerability and recoverability; the total effect of these aspects must be understood to evaluate survivability. The fire risk cannot be analyzed without a general analysis of a ship’s susceptibility and vulnerability with respect to relevant threats, which indicates that the analysis depends on relevant multiple operational scenarios.
Physical descriptions of fire depend on the ship specifications, and for the same operational scenario, the ship design concept will vary due to differences in the ship tactics, susceptibility and vulnerability. The example in this paper demonstrates that the ignition frequency for weapon-ignited fires depends on the location of the compartment; this is not the case for accidental fires. Different design concepts will also require different passive and active fire protection depending on the differences in the design and how it is manned. For example, if an FRP concept is considered, the combustible nature of FRPs can contribute to the fire in extreme fires; in other cases, with higher expected frequencies, the thermal insulation of FRP will yield a smaller fire zone and contribute to survivability.
The critical systems must be identified to analyze the ship kill levels. These critical components and systems depend on the ship design and assumed tasks after a hit (often described as the ship survivability levels). Typical critical systems include the propulsion system and power supply.
The importance of firefighting on naval ships is highlighted in the study which show that firefighting is the most important aspect for reducing the probability of catastrophic consequences from complicated ignition cases because the built-in protection is insufficient for stopping the fire escalation. The reaction times and effectiveness with respect to firefighting onboard naval vessels are difficult to compare with other firefighting conditions thanks to extensive training, a high level of readiness, high number of crew members relative to the ship size and good firefighting equipment availability.
Certain problems have been raised for risk-based approaches, especially for defining the scenario, such as limited research and perceptions. However, these problems are consistent among most analysis approaches, but heavy use of complicated tools may hide these aspects and make validation more complicated. Further, uncertainties are particularly challenging, especially for analyzing antagonistic threats. On the other hand, a probabilistic approach offers a framework that is consistent from theory to the first principle tools, which has been found to improve the decision-making process when selecting among candidate survivability design principles.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Article examining reported piracy incidents off West Africa

(C) H. Liwång 2016
I’ve heard a lot of stories about the piracy attacks off West Africa. I therefore had to examine the reported incidents to see what was true or could be identified by the official reports. The resulting journal article is now published. It is clear from the study that piracy off West Africa is violent and pose a substantial threat to shipping in the Region.

Abstract:
Piracy is one of the most frequent maritime threats. However, despite the importance of how maritime piracy is to be reduced, it is substantially less investigated than maritime safety. Piracy off Somalia is the most investigated case of piracy, but those results are not necessarily generalizable. Piracy off West Africa has been shown to be more diverse, successful and dangerous.
This study investigates and analyses piracy off West Africa with the aim to understand how different operations and security measures affect the consequences of piracy.
This study has identified several different intents and shows that most attacks are relatively close to shore and correspond to areas of high ship density. Attacks with the intent of theft at night-time are generally performed close to shore, and more complicated attacks against ships under way are more common during daytime and farther from shore. Five types of measures are found to have high effectiveness if the attack is detected during approach; after boarding, only two measures have high effectiveness. Of the effective measures, it can be concluded that all but one are dependent on detecting the attack. Therefore, detecting the pirates is key but must be accompanied by a set of measures because no measure alone can protect a ship given the operational conditions off West Africa. The risks associated with piracy off West Africa are estimated to be of the same magnitude as the risks posed by Somali piracy at its peak.

The article describes the risk levels with an event tree. (C) Liwång 2016.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Am I orthogonal to the market?

Nicolas Negroponte (MIT Professor) just told me and others at a MIT event that research should be orthogonal to the market, i.e., we should try to do the things the market cannot do. I think his advice make sense.

I don't know if I am orthogonal. I must identify my angle to the market and articulate it. However, the same is true for some research funding organizations.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

The risk-based method for assessing environmental risks from wrecks


Chalmers University of Technology has in cooperation with the Swedish Maritime Administration developed a risk analysis method/tool for assessing environmental risks from wrecks, VRAKA. This is one of the research focuses within the Swedish work with wrecks that I write about in my last post (here).
Challenging aspects of this risk assessment model is must probably the uncertainties, but also the fact that it must cover a complicated combination of environmental consequences from oil to explosives and chemical weapons. These have both short term and long term effects that need different considerations in general and dependent on the specific conditions for every wreck. This generally is a demanding task for any risk assessment approach.


But don’t take my word for it, read a PhD thesis on the topic by one of the persons that have been working with the approach… (Environmental risk assessment of shipwrecks – Model development and application by Hanna Landquist)


Hanna Landquist is a PhD-student at Chalmers until Novenber 11 (2016) when her dissertation is planned to be held.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Toxic risk from sunken ships off the Swedish coast


Both media and research focus has been put on the risk posed by sunken ships off the Swedish coast. One especially media friendly collection of wrecks are the wrecks on the Swedish Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) off the island and lighthouse Måseskär (west of Orust on the Swedish west coast). After World War II German ships were sunk there by the allies, the ships were filled with German ammunition and chemical weapons. The number of ships, the amount of ammunition, what type of chemical weapons and so on is unclear. After reading reports from the latest investigations on site (Swedish Maritime Administration, 2015) it is clear that it is bad. However, the claims made over the last 20-30 years by journalists about the number of ships and amount of mustard gas is most probably exaggerated and a result of unreliable secondary sources. But let us not focus on those issues because the problems are real no matter what.
The work localizing and learning more about the wrecks off Sweden is an intriguing  mix of diving, ROVs, archive searches, risk analysis and classic detective work. It thus includes an important, challenging and close cooperation between researchers and practitioners. It is from 2016 decided that the (new) agency Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management (SwAM or HaV in Swedish) is responsible for the coordination of the work and late 2016 the first wrecks will be investigated for oil and emptied if oil is found. The first wreck to be drilled for oil is the Thetis in the Skagerrak. The SwAM is also aiming for IMO to ban fishing around the ammunition  ships off Måseskär on the Swedish EEZ.
The list of the most prioritized wrecks (the emergency to-do list) also include ships in other positions than off the Swedish west coast. One is just of my home island where I and many others often passes over it on the fairway to and from Stockholm. It is the cargo ship Harburg, she collided February 16, 1957 with the tanker Tinny. Harburg sank fast and 10 men were killed. Tinny of 16450 DWT, loaded with gasoline, was on her way to Stockholm and hit Harburg amidships and probably caused the boiler to explode and tare the ship up from inside. The collision pushed Harburg down under Tinnys keel. Harburg sits on approximately 30-37 m depth about 180 meters from shore. The ship is broken just in front of the first cargo hold with the bow lying flat on the ground and the aft part of the angle from the bottom. Harburg has previously leaked oil.

An interesting side story to this investigation is that neither fishermen nor fish are stupid ;-)

While on site the Swedish Maritime Administration used both side scan sonars and ROVs to investigate the wrecks. What was evident from the sonar data was that the waters are often used as fishing ground for bottom trawling. From the tracks it is clear that the fishermen knows the positions of all the wrecks and to a good job dragging the trawl in-between as shown on the picture below.
Tracks from bottom trawling. (C) the Swedish Maritime Administration, 2015.
However, also the fish seems to have grasped the important aspects of the situation and spend their time cramped together just around the wrecks. This is evident from the ROV reports as there was problems getting any shots of the wrecks and cargo onboard as a result of all the fish. (Sadly the Swedish Maritime Administration does not publish the pictures with the fish, the focus on the wreck. However, you can find fish also on those pictures as shown below.) I suspect that the fish has analyzed the fishermen's activity and now make sure to spend their time where they are out of reach for the trawlers...
ROV and side scan sonar pictures. Note the weapons on the ROV pictures and around the ships on the sonar picture, but also the fish on the top left picture. (C) the Swedish Maritime Administration, 2015.
Reference
Swedish Maritime Administration, 2015. Miljörisker sjunkna vrak II, Undersökningsmetoder och miljöaspekter [Environmental risks from sunken wrecks II, Investigation and environmental aspects]. Dnr: 1399-14-01942-15. Swedish Maritime Administration