Sunday, May 4, 2008

EMC/BC/COOP - When to allow risks

Enterprise Risk Management Business Continuity Continuation Of Operations

It's almost unthinkable that anyone would allow a risk, but there are times when this is appropriate.

For many years, it was U.S. Interior Department policy to rush to extinguish forest fires.

No longer.

By putting out small fires, the forest floor increasingly was covered with fuel waiting for a spark.

Interior now has a burn policy, which as long as it is controlled - no guarantee as Utah residents can attest - reduces big burns. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management personnel regularly start small, hopefully controlled, burns to clear out some of the fuel dropped on the forest floor in the natural course of events.

It helps to combine Interior's mitigation efforts with decent planning and zoning that prohibits building permanent structures - e.g., multi-million dollar palaces - in "prone to burn" areas.

Right now there is a measles outbreak of almost pandemic proportions.

When I was young, mothers encouraged their children, especially daughters, to "catch" measles. Why? Getting measles while young and otherwise healthy provided natural antibodies which the girl, when an adult and pregnant, needed to fend off the disease to protect the fetus. This was a time before a measles vaccine was developed. The fatality rate for measles was far lower than, say, smallpox.

The problem with the broad range of vaccinations available to the world today is a false idea that the diseases are eradicated.

It's funny. When someone asks me when I got involved in ERM/BC/COOP, I used to reply "1994."

But I actually got "involved" with ERM/BC/COOP as a child going to a pediatrician for then-annual inoculations (and a stick of Juicy Fruit gum). As an Air Force medic I was again "involved" with ERM/BC/COOP, but still with a medical bent.

Between shot lines, I worked for (I learned later) a CIA cover organization "pickle-ing" metal to preserve it from Miami Florida's humidity.

Preventive medicine, preventive maintenance, preventive anything is, at its core, part of the ERM/BC/COOP process. It's mitigation. In the cases mentioned here, the mitigation is far less expensive than the alternative.

Medical care, obviously, has a "response" function as well, but it often is very expensive, time consuming, and invasive - frankly, it is an ideal illustration of ERM/BC/COOP in (in)action.

John Glenn, MBCI, SRP
Enterprise Risk Management/Business Continuity
Planner @

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