Once a catastrophe hits an organization it is obvious that preventive actions would have been vastly cheaper, much easier to implement and immeasurably better for the organization than the emergency response now required. But at this point it is too late.
Catastrophe prevention happens in the calmer hours long before hazards turn into devastating events. Often these are small, powerful events that seem mundane: a senior executive following up on a note of concern from a district supervisor; a board member challenging over-optimistic assumptions in a critical IT project plan; an offshore drilling engineer delaying the spudding of a well until the crew is fully briefed.
The best companies are able to safely embrace massive risks because they build cultures that also embrace preventive action. It requires discipline and constant diligence but these companies are able to operate in very tough environments without releasing catastrophic incidents on their employees, communities and industry.
For others, taking action to prevent catastrophe is too much of a burden. These companies see low probability / high consequence events as a good bet, they cut corners, and they push hard for production and profit. They may employ sophisticated risk management systems but use them to provide the illusion of control and safety.
It is possible for an organization to be both highly ambitious and safe from catastrophic events. See our research reports for ideas on how the strengthen your organizations preventive systems.