Does Your Risk Assessment Include Pandemics, Cyber Attacks And Terrorism?

Enhancements in technology, travel and communication have improved many companies' efficiency, but have also enabled the spread of threats and malicious actors.

Emergency preparedness and business continuity managers need to ensure that they’re incorporating all existing and emerging risks in their organization’s risk assessments.

When planning, they need to look beyond their established risks and ensure that they’re adapting their business continuity plans to reflect these newly emerging risks - pandemics, cyber attacks and terrorism.

What To Look For

Terrorism and pandemics have been around for hundreds of years, and cyber attacks are becoming more prevalent and advanced in recent decades.

All businesses are susceptible to these risks – a malicious actor may target your organization, contagious diseases are indiscriminate and/or your business just may be located in a high-risk area.

So what should businesses look for when preparing for each threat?


Terrorism has impacted countries and businesses for hundreds of years, but has been brought to the forefront of the international conscience since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States. That attack killed thousands of passengers of several flights as well as bystanders and emergency responders and continues to kill hundreds. It also caused the loss of thousands of jobs across various industries and had a severe impact on some, like tourism.

And while large-scale attacks have decreased, the overall number of international attacks have increased since 2012. According to Statista, in 2017 there were 8,584 global terror attacks, causing 18,753 deaths.


Pandemics can indiscriminately kill millions of people. In the 20th century, three separate pandemics were recorded. Two were considered relatively mild with 3 million fatalities recorded globally. The Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918, however, was considered severe, with more than 50 million deaths recorded globally. It remains one of the most serious pandemics to this day.

The threat of pandemics is a major risk, with many experts saying that global travel will be a key catalyst. For example, in September 2018, a United Emirates aircraft from Dubai arrived at Kennedy International Airport with approximately 100 of the more than 500 passengers and crew on board showing flu-like symptoms. Eleven required hospitalization. This was an isolated incident, and it was quickly contained, but experts believe this is how a pandemic will spread — through global air travel.

“These incidents tell us that we must begin planning and preparing now for the business effects of the next pandemic,” said business continuity expert Bob Clark, during a recent AlertFind webinar. “The time to prepare for the next contagion is now – if you wait until it's in your backyard, it will be too late.”

Cyber Attacks

Cyber attacks are the most recent of these emerging risks, with the first FBI conviction of a hacker occurring in the 1980s. They are a persistent and growing threat that companies and governments have repeatedly been ill-equipped to handle.

An astonishing 700,000 new threats are identified every day. And they are not just relegated to large corporations – in 2017 it was estimated that about 59% of all cyber attacks targeted small- and medium-sized enterprises.

In May 2017, WannaCry was a massive ransomware attack estimated to have infected 250,000 computers across 150 countries. Organizations it affected included household names such as FedEx in the U.S. and the U.K.’s National Health Service. The attack was designed to spread quickly among computers on the same network, and then encrypt the victim’s own files, when hackers would then demand ransom from users for the key to release the computer files.

Clark said cyber attacks against businesses are inevitable and cited the warning of former F.B.I. Director Robert Mueller, who said: “There are only two types of companies: those that have been hacked, and those that will be.”

How Emerging Risks Threaten Your Business

Even with all this evidence, some companies still aren’t planning for these risks. But no matter how big or small or where the company is located, these risks need attention now.

Pandemics can shut down your office or building, infect your workforce and limit your supply chain. A closure could last anywhere from days to weeks, and cost thousands, if not millions, in lost revenue and productivity.

Cyber attacks can breach sensitive company and customer information, cost millions and force you to spend lots of time, money and resources in recovery.

A terrorist attack can cause injury and death and physical destruction of your property. Using the events of 9/11 as an example, the damages were so severe for some businesses in downtown New York that they closed forever; others took weeks and months to relocate. Similar to being the site of workplace violence, it also causes post-traumatic stress disorder for employees.

To learn more from Bob Clark about how companies perform risk assessments for these emerging threats, listen to our new webinar, “Pandemics, Terrorism And Cyber Attacks: Is Your Organization Ready For The Evolving Risk Landscape?

Watch the Webinar

You are well on your way toward protecting your staff and organization.

Take the next step toward protecting your organization by learning more about emergency notification systems and the vital role they play in your emergency preparedness plan.