Wednesday, July 2, 2008

ERM-BCP-COOP: Test before need

Had a sister-in-law (SIL) and her spouse visiting for 3 weeks.

Over the course of their stay, we visited NYC, DC, West Virginia, a couple of US parks, and Luray Caverns.

Since my digital camera is (still) in need of repair and since the SIL doesn't own a digi-cam, the wife bought a couple of discount store cardboard film cameras.

One sans flash but with high-speed film and one with flash.

I own several "real" cameras - a Canon F-1 and a Canon FtB, as well as a 4*5 (inch) that is great for technical stuff but a bit much to schlep on a Shank's Mare tour.

But, being lazy, of late I used the cardboard, single-use variety for simple documentation purposes (such as when I moved into rental quarters and wanted to document pre-move in conditions).

I always bought "name" cameras - Fujifilm or Kodak, names I know and - based on experience - trust.

But hey, a single-use camera is a single-use camera is a . . .

Well, maybe not.

Turns out many of the West Virginia, NYC, and DC shots with the flash-less unit were destined for the trash can.


Likewise the photos from the flash camera used in the cave. The flash simply didn't do the job. All it had to do was supplement the low-level lights in the cave. (The place is impressive and well worth a visit.)

I have been a "professional" photographer for more years than I care to say. Mostly for newspapers or PR. I avoided weddings since if something goes wrong, how are you going to re-shoot, especially when the wedding party has scattered to the four winds?

This was something similar.

This was SIL's first trip to the U.S.; her husband's second in 30-some years and his first outside NYC.

They boarded a plane home yesterday - no chance to "re-do" any of the photos.

Where was the problem?

It could have been with the developing process; stale chemicals, an off-speed conveyor.

But the film from the two cameras was processed at different times, albeit at the same "ready-in-an-hour" location.

I suspect the problem is with the cardboard cameras with their plastic lenses.

Now, the ERM-BC-COOP connection.

I know, based on experience, that name single-use cameras take "OK" pictures. True, they can't match the Canons or the 4*5 for control, but for "quick-n-dirty" work, they do the job.

I know the "send-the-film-out" processing also is "pretty good." Not what you expect from a true photo lab (do they still exist?), but "good enough."

But I was using "no name" products across the board.

My guests paid a heavy price - they had few photographic memories to stuff into their suitcases for the return home.

Risk management demands that we test things - physical and processes - BEFORE we need them.

Test in a hostile environment if that is when those things will be implemented. Find the "worst case" scenario ("situation" if you dislike the word "scenario") and test.

I am, unfortunately, not alone in learning (actually being reminded of) this lesson.

The U.S. lost a number of soldiers in Iraq when helicopters in which they were riding crashed - often because the environment damaged the 'copters engines.

The Army - and the planes' manufacturers - should have known there was a dust/sand-in-the-engine issue and either eliminated the problem or used a more appropriate vehicle to transport troops.

The Army's loss is far greater than mine, but in both cases, the problem could have been avoided by testing before critical application.

Had I practiced what I preached, I would have made certain the cameras were either from Fujifilm or Kodak, and I would have insisted that the film be developed by a "real" lab where there would be a better chance that the chemicals would be fresh and the machines properly calibrated.

That, of course, still does not assure success, but it improves the odds.

We exercise ERM-BC-COOP plans (at some level) and we practice building evacuations (at some level). What we often fail to do is to test the complete process or the back-up device.

As an example, some plans I see call for acquiring replacement equipment.

Did anyone check to see if the equipment is still available?

Did anyone make certain Purchasing is included in the response team?

"Minor" little things that - like my no-name cameras and in-an-hour film processors - can cause a good plan (or good intentions) to be defeated.

My guests may have enjoyed their stay in the U.S., but they have little to show for it.

I knew I should have bought those souvenir post cards.

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

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