Thursday, August 25, 2011


Pay attention!


Several tv anchors told the world the other day that a number of zoo animals were acting strangely just moments before the earthquake felt from New York to South Carolina.

Anyone who grew up around livestock - and who paid attention to the animals - knows that animal behavior often provides a clue to a coming weather event.

People who believe in such things think that a "ring around the moon" is a predictor of rain.

In my neck of the woods, a green sky means a tornado may be coming our way; watch for it.

Likewise, when the air gets "heavy" and humidity levels are higher than the temperature, expect a severe storm, usually accompanied by lightening.

Of course we all know someone who, when the weather is about to turn nasty, has aches and pains in joints or teeth, or perhaps gets a "migraine" headache.

An article on the How Stuff Works, a wholly owned subsidiary of Discovery Communications Web site, titled Can animals predict the weather? provides some interesting conjecture.

For the risk manager, the lesson is that we - and the people with whom we work - need to become more attuned to our environment, both inside and outside the building (be "the building" a home or a workplace).

Not all awareness efforts are focused outside. Many are simply paying attention to our "personal space." In some cases, the only animal we need to notice is the human animal.

For example:

  • Smells

    Is there a strange or different smell in the room? Perhaps a burning wire or paper in a waste basket? Caught early, damage may be minor and cause little interruption.

  • Sounds

    Unusual or non-stop sounds can indicate a variety of things. An electrical short is perhaps the worst case; dripping or running water can indicate a leaky pipe or valve that failed to close. Attend to it early and damage may be eliminated with a mop and bucket; ignore it and you may be standing outside while professionals dry out the building,<

  • Sights

    This covers a wealth of things, mostly human.

    • Trucks of any size parked close to the building - where is the driver, how long has the vehicle been there.<,/LI>

    • Strangers, especially unescorted strangers, in the work area - why are they walking around sans an escort; do they have ID badges issued by Security or Reception?

Awareness training, learning to pay attention to normal sights, sounds, and smells, is like having a physical when you feel good - get a "base line" on what is "normal" so when something is amiss, it is quickly detected and addressed.

Awareness training needs to go beyond awareness of the Three Ss (ibid.) - it needs to include What To Do in the event something seems "not right."

There are many parts to a viable risk management program; awareness is just one - albeit a critical one - of the many.

The nice thing about awareness training is that is usually is easy on the budget; the biggest cost is a little production downtime and, for really progressive organizations, perhaps a cookie and cup of coffee.

We still can't "talk to the animals," be we can be aware of their behavior and we can be much more aware of our own surroundings.

All it takes is a little encouragement and some personal effort.

By the way, where IS that fire extinguisher? What ARE the two closest exits that are wide enough for a wheelchair?

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