Tuesday, December 9, 2008

ERM-BC-COOP: History forgotten is bound to repeat

Sunday was December 7.

Apparently for most folks it was "no big deal."

It was a "big deal" 67 years ago.

On that December 7 Sunday in 1941 U.S. forces in the Pacific were attacked by Japanese planes, pulling us officially into World War Two.

Was it a sneak attack as most Americans believe, or did the president (FDR) and some of his cabinet anticipate the attack? Was information available but not shared? Some claim that is the case.

A good December 7th Web site is the (US) Library of Congress, http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/today/dec07.html.

How long before we "forget" 9-11? I suspect that for many, the year in which the Islamists flew high jacked aircraft into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon already has been forgotten - for the record, it was 2001. For the record, there was a fourth plane that crashed into a Pennsylvania field because the passengers fought back.

9-11 should have taught us a lesson that communication between groups - sometimes, as in the case of the US government, competing groups - can make the difference between a 9-11 type disaster, or a Katrina disaster, or . . . - or avoiding or mitigating a threat.

Your typical Enterprise Risk Management (Business Continuity/COOP) practitioner could not have prevented 9-11 or Katrina; those events were too far above our pay grade.

But perhaps we can make a difference at a smaller organization were the concern is more about protecting people and the operation than politics and finger-pointing.

Still, in order to make a difference, we have to have very senior management's attention and, more, its visible and on-going support.

As Dwayne F. Schneider (Pat Harrington Jr., on tv's "One Day at a Time") frequently said, "Always remember and never forget." We seem to have forgotten that Sunday on December 7, 1941; once the lesson is forgotten, it or something similar will happen again, if not on December 7, then perhaps September 11.

Part of our job as ERM/BC/COOP practitioners is to learn from the past and to keep the lessons learned current and before those who engage our expertise.

We may be excused for missing something that never happened before, but we can have no excuse for ignoring lessons learned.

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

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