Catastrophic Impact and Loss: The Capstone of Impact Assessment, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Catastrophic Impact and Loss

The Capstone of Impact Assessment, 1st Edition

By Kevin D. Burton

CRC Press

348 pages | 51 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2012-10-25
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The author’s previous work, Managing Emerging Risk: The Capstone of Preparedness considered the notion of risk and what constitutes risk assessment. It presented scenarios to introduce readers to areas of critical thinking around probability and possibility. Six months after the book’s publication, many of the scenarios came true, and other, more menacing risks emerged. Catastrophic Impact and Loss: The Capstone of Impact Assessment is the second stone to be laid in a path toward a more mindful practice of emergency management, focusing on the impacts caused by risk and offering a complete approach to measure and manage them.

Providing a true understanding of what it is to be "in harm’s way," this essential book details the devastation and effects that both public and private enterprise must be prepared for in the event of a catastrophe. The book examines:

  • Impact assessment as an essential piece of information and the fundamental flaws that hinder the process
  • The development of the digital age and postmodernism and the five guiding principles of postmodern impact assessments
  • How to establish an impact horizon and effect a clear scope statement that includes all in-scope and out-of-scope assets and locations
  • Problems that occur when we fail to create impact assessments that align with internal organizational values, federal and state laws, or industry regulations—and how to use the guiding principles to address these problems
  • Methods for developing solid analytical models for impact assessment—exacting logical, relevant, and clear language and taxonomies
  • How to address overrides and deviations based on expert opinion, cultural needs, and the application of common sense
  • Key challenges in postmodern business impact assessment and how we can best meet those challenges by understanding the concept of the uncanny valley

Readers who master the principles in this book will better understand the link between the potential damage of an event and how information informs every decision to prepare for, respond to, mitigate, and recover.


"The methodologies offered in this book are sound concepts based upon fundamental risk management principles expanded to take into account the evolving global interdependences of the digital age."

Security Management

Table of Contents

The Postmodern Impact Assessment and Problems of the Mind

Overview: Risk and Impacts

Why Risk Assessments and Impact Assessments Are Different

Approaching the Impact Assessment

The Evolution of Impacts

Susie’s Lemonade Stand

A Fundamental Flaw

A Larger Problem

Reconsidering the Impact Analysis and Problems of the Mind

Objects and Critical Thinking: Apple, Cabinets of Curiosity, and a Dark Nostalgia

Objects in the Digital Age

Objects in Japan Today: A Different Worldview

Objects in the Age of Enlightenment

Applying Seba’s Curiosities to Impact Assessments

A Dark Nostalgia

Five Guiding Principles for Postmodern Impact Assessments

Overview: A Fundamental Flaw and the Five Guiding Principles

Looking Deeper at the Evolution of Impacts

The BP Oil Spill of 2010: A Postmodern Failure

Stakeholders in an Impact Assessment

Five Guiding Principles for Postmodern Impact Assessments

Understanding the Second Phase in an Emergency Management Program: Conducting a Potential Impact Assessment

The Second Phase—Five Guiding Principles for Postmodern Impact Assessments

Summary of the Five Principles of Potential Impacts Analysis

Revisiting: Postmodernism, Revolution, and the Public Sector

The First Principle: Establish the Impact Horizon

Overview: A Fundamental Flaw and the Impact Horizon

Taking a Wide-Angle View of Potential Impacts

Impacts and Criticality

The Impact Horizon and Public Perception

The Amazon Cloud Computing Outage of 2011

The Importance of Stakeholders and Establishing the Impact Horizon

The Business Continuity Perspective

The Emergency Management Perspective

The Counterterrorism Perspective

The Public/Private Impact Horizon—Mixed Impacts from the 2008 Financial Crisis

Delivering the Impact Horizon

The Second Principle: Align Impact Measures to Core Values

Overview: An Underlying Problem and the Alignment to Core Values

Postmodern Culture and the Importance of Messaging from the Core during a Crisis

Hurricane Katrina, August 2005: Off Message and Off Mission

The Joplin, Missouri, Tornado of 2011: Off Message and Off Mission

The Oslo Terror Attacks: On Message and On Mission

In the Private Sector—Core Values and Measurable Impacts

Delivering Alignment to Core Values

Why the Second Principle Matters

The Third Principle: Consider and Align National and State Laws and Industry Regulations

Overview: Addressing Underlying Problems with Federal and State Laws and Industry Regulation

The Third Principle and the Private Sector

Standards and Regulations

In the Business Arena

In Healthcare

New Orleans, August 23, 2005—Katrina

Know the Terrain

HIPAA 5010


The Dodd-Frank Act

Deliverables in Compliance with the Third Principle

Postmodern Culture: Legal Challenges and the Regulatory Climate

About Posse Comitatus

Why the Third Principle Matters

Taking a Second Look at the Third Principle


Hurricane Irene, 2011: A Case Study in Legal Action and Regulatory Response

Hurricane Irene—On Message

The Tale of Two Hurricanes—A Critical Comparison

The Backdrop—A Nation in Conflict over Freedom and Safety

Applying Resources to Irene Based on Potential Impacts While Following the Third Principle

A Thorny Problem

A Low-Profile, Highly Tactical Response

Negative Public Perception

Changes in the Military Structure

In Summary: Irene and Other Impacts

The Fourth Principle: Apply Rigorous Data

Overview: Applying the Second and Third Principles and Creating a Range of Criticality Values Based on a Logical Order and a Common Taxonomy

The Impact Assessment as a Business Case

Establishing Ranges of Criticality Values Using Logic and the Weighted Scores

Getting Started with Data Normalization in the Weighted Criticality Score Values

The Range of Criticality Score Values and the Placement of Objects in the Range

Create a Range of Criticality

Apply the Weighted Score to Individual Objects

Applying Common Logic

Core Objects and Metadata

Applying a Common Taxonomy

A Proposed Taxonomy Framework

Using Big Data to Create Ranges of Criticality—A Better Approach

Generating the Weighted Score and Ranges of Criticality with Big Data

The Set of Objects as Big Data

What Is an Object, and How to Determine Criticality Based on the Conjunction of Expert Interviews and Big Data

Back to the Weighted Score and the Rigorous Application of Data

Creating a Range of Criticality Based on Big Data

The Fifth Principle: Document Deviations and Overrides

Overview: Documented Deviations and Overrides

Why Deviations and Overrides Occur

Personal Biases

Expert Opinion

Cultural Issues

International Law

Cultural Perspectives: India

Cultural Perspectives: Japan

Cultural Perspectives: Israel

International Finance

Into the Uncanny Valley

Overview: Potential Impact Assessments and Realism

A Larger Problem


The Clear Choice during Turbulent Times

The Choice

The Uncanny Valley

Studies in the Uncanny Valley

The Otaku’s Curation of the Uncanny

The 2011 Tōhoku Earthquake

The Unexpected Impact—A Sea of Debris

Insurrections and Earthquakes

The Ethical Choices We Must Make

Shepherding the Organization through the Uncanny Valley


About the Author

Kevin D. Burton has been an active practitioner of the business continuity and disaster recovery disciplines since 1994. As a senior consultant at one of the "big two" disaster recovery consultancies, he had the responsibility of servicing the unique needs of e-businesses and highly mature n-tiered application architecture frameworks in the late 1990s. During this period, his clients included May Company Stores, Cattelus Corporation, Sun America Financial,, Dole Foods, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), and PeopleSoft.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAW / Forensic Science
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Disasters & Disaster Relief