Wednesday, December 25, 2013


I like words.

I can happily sit and read an unabridged dictionary.

Trouble is, I cannot spell very well, which means I sometimes reach a desired word via a most circuitous route.

Digging into a word's origins almost always is rewarding with interesting trivia.

For examples:

Fillet (fil-lay) is Latin via French. The British pronounce it "fil-it." The French and cultured Americans say fil-lay. Who is correct? According to the Latin root, the word is fil-it. Point to the Brits. But perhaps only in the U.K.

Pedant (pee-dant), which I insisted on mispronouncing as pendant, a thing to hang around a neck, is now a negative term for a person with OCD; a person who is picayunish to the enth degree. Mispronouncing the word creates a catachresis. Pedant in its Greek and Latin beginnings meant "teacher" or someone (a Greek's slave) who escorted children to their studies.

I don't know when I acquired "picayune" and its variations (ibid.); possibly on a Greyhound rest stop in New Orleans, a/k/a NOLA or Crescent City, home of the Times-Picayune newspaper.

I am without a doubt a curmudgeon - Sesame Street's Oscar the Grouch has nothing on me.

When I was an honest reporter (read "print" vs. "electronic" [tv] ) I used to pick up new and useful words from many and sundry sources.

A judge in Red Bluff CA gave me "recidivistic," the condition of a miscreant who appeared before him too many times. When I asked him to define the word for me he responded, forcefully: "Look it up." I did.

A fellow who wrote a column for Philadelphia's Jewish Exponent wrote to me via his amanuensis about how he came to have the same last name as this scrivener.

When I was documenting risks, I always included the "ubiquitous other," the one no one identified. Some folks call the "ubiquitous other" a "black swan," but I don't believe in black swans (as risks) any more than I believe in Santa Claus, the Easter bunny laying eggs, or the tooth fairy. Some might say failure to identify a risk was the hamartia of my plan. I may not have identified a risk, but I should have covered how to respond if any risk occurs despite my best efforts.

I suppose I can be considered superannuated , but I'm copacetic with that. Copacetic has been a favorite, and once oft-used word, of mine for some time. Still, superannuated or not, I can never be accused of having misocainea

M words and women: Misogamy , misogyny , miscegenation

Misology simply is unreasonable.

I'll never a have command of the language near that of Wm. Buckley or Abba Eban, but - and it is sad to report - I probably have a better vocabulary than most folks with Masters degrees. How did it happen?

I read and I read.

Words were the tools of my trade.

Friday, December 6, 2013


Political Correctness




Some folks, I suspect mostly white liberals, forced Walt Disney's company to shelve Song of the South, otherwise known as Uncle Remus Tales.

According to one source I found online, Joel Chandler Harris, the "author" of the Uncle Remus stories simply recorded morality tales told by slaves and ex-slaves, black Aesops if you will. According to Snopes (

Harris grew up in Georgia during the Civil War, spent a lifetime compiling and publishing the tales told to him by former slaves. These stories — many of which Harris learned from an old black man he called "Uncle George" — were first published as columns in The Atlanta Constitution and were later syndicated nationwide and published in book form. Harris's Uncle Remus was a fictitious old slave and philosopher who told entertaining fables about Br'er Rabbit and other woodland creatures in a Southern Black dialect.

Like Aesop, the Uncle Remus tales use animals to deliver the message.

The 1946 movies Song of the South included a series of "firsts," including the first combination of human actors and animated characters. The humans included James Baskett as Uncle Remus, Disney's first live actor ever hired by Disney. (See for a list of all the characters in the movie.)

I saw Song of the South as a child and thought it wonderful; like most kids, I went around singing Zippidy do dah ; I still sing it many years later.

TO THE POINT, while the movie is available only overseas, you might be able to find a CD with four Uncle Remus tales. (The CD, if anyone is interested, is called Brer Rabbit and the Wonderful Tar Baby. There also are a number of books with Uncle Remus tales; check your local library Reference Desk.)

My Local Lending Library, hereafter LLL, had access to the CD and several Uncle Remus books. "Access" since the books were found in other libraries and shipped, albeit indirectly, to my LLL. I've been getting books this way for years.

The interesting thing about the CD is not the stores but the person telling the tales and the person providing the "mood" music.

Two gentlemen of - ahh - color are Danny Glover who reads the takes and Taj Mahal who provides the background music. (The "weasel words" are used since, in my lifetime, they have been called negro, colored, Afro-American, and black; I'm not sure what the term-du-jour will be when this is read; hopefully, "just folk.")

If, then, Song of the South and the Uncle Remus tales are so offensive to people of color, why are these two famous people involved with the CD?

Granted, "different strokes for different folks"; when the replica of the slave ship La Amistad was offered to Tampa FL, the locals rejected it; the folks of New Haven CN gladly accepted the chance to host the ship. (Read about the boat at - among other sites -

Mr. Glover, who voices all of the characters on the CD, does does not use " Southern Black dialect" - no "dis 'n dat" but the story comes through just fine.

Still, I think maybe some folks are a little too sensitive to dialects; they are too quick to assume they are a "put down" yet those accents are very much a part of Americana. I have an accent, my wife has an accent, my neighbors all have accents; those accents make life interesting, colorful, and as long as they are mimiced in a kind way, no one is offended.

I think Disney's capitulating to a few, most likely Caucasian, liberals is a pity. Kids today need the morality lessons of Uncle Remus as much, if not more, than I did when I was a youngster.

Maybe I'll ask some of my acquaintenance overseas if they can get a DVD copy of the movie. My grand-daughter deserves to see it with her grandfather.

Sunday, December 1, 2013


Obsolescence as risk

I don't usually consider obsolescence as a risk.

We usually know when things start to reach the end of their useful life. After all, when we make a Major Purchase (and "major" depends on the budget) we look for a Use By date or MTTF information. Warranties and extended warranties also give us a clue to a product's useful life.

Today, as I tried to enter the gated community in which I reside I - like Froggy the Gremlin - tried to plunk my magic twanger, a/k/a gate clicker, and it once again failed to raise the barrier.

The gate mechanism recently was replaced and the residents were told we would need to buy, at more than $50 each, new clickers. Turns out that the new mechanism could be programmed to receive signals from the old clickers. (Some of the residents suspect shenanigans on the part of the board, but that's another matter.)

In any event, today my clicker - an old model - failed to raise the barrier.

The guardette at the gate, a delightful young woman named Kim, waved me through the visitors' side, suggesting that maybe my clicker was past its prime. (She's a nice person, so I didn't take it personally.)

The Made in China clicker has an LED that lights when the device is activated, and it lit when I last tried - and failed - to raise the bar. But, Kim is a pretty smart lady and the device is pretty simple, so I thought "Let's see if the battery is OK."

I anticipated a special-order, long-life power source. When I opened the clicker I discovered a standard 9-volt battery.

I always have spare batteries, everything from AAA to 9 volt, and maybe a round camera battery for an old Canon F-1 that is no longer in use - pity, it was (is) an excellent 35 mm camera.

Did the battery fix the problem.

Before finding out I took the garage door opener apart. Like the clicker, very simple; no jumpers to adjust frequencies, just two round camera-type batteries. One button on the two-button device opens the garage door; the other button …anyone's guess. Like the gate opener, the device lacked any obvious jumper terminals.

With the new 9-volt installed, I went back to the gate and clicked.


As I stood there, clicker in hand, I noticed someone else with an old clicker and she, too, failed to raise the gate.

But then, the light came one.

Actually, the lights failed to come on and that gave me a clue as to what the problem really was: there was a power problem at the barrier motor.

It seems the property management put up holiday lights before Thanksgiving.

When the light wrapped around the barrier were lit, the old clicker worked.

When the lights were off, the clicker failed to raise the barrier.

I sent the over-paid/under-worked property manager an email suggesting that the problem probably was electrical and unless the new radio frequency receiver was made in China, it probably was under warranty and it might be a good idea to check out the power and the receiver.

I don't know what was done other than the gate now rises at my clicker's command.

There several "bottom lines" for this.

Bottom Line #1: Be prepared for obsolescence. The old gate mechanism failed and could not be repaired.

Bottom Line #2: Know something about the product you are buying. As it happens, I worked with commercial and military transceivers so I at least suspected that the replacement unit had two receivers that could be programmed to accommodate both the old and the new clickers.

Bottom Line #3: TROUBLESHOOT the failing product to see if there are any clues to the cause of the problem. In the case of the reluctant arm, the lights were the clue. Now, when I approach the barrier, if the lights are lit, I know I can come in through the residents' side; if not, I enter through the visitors' side.

If I wrote it, you may quote it

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


AvMed letter raises
Customer ire and BP

I have been an AvMed Medicare Advantage customer for several years. Over all, it has been a satisfactory relationship - at least for me.

But this year, 2013, AvMed's communications with its clients has left more than a little to be desired.

For example AvMed sent me two documents in one envelop.

The outer document told me my plan was cancelled.

The inner document solicited my continued patronage with a new plan.

It seems AvMed cancelled one plan and substituted another.

One letter stating "Your plan [Plan ID] has been replaced with [Plan ID]. The only differences between the plans are listed below: " would have sufficed AND avoided confusion.

Remember. This is a Medicare plan, and that means a plan for geezers who (a) know how to read and (b) usually don't make assumptions.

The previous two-letter package pales in comparison to the letter I received yesterday in which I was informed that "Your enrollment in has been cancelled. This means you don't have coverage from AvMed Medicare."

The only date in the missive was the date the letter was printed.

Since AvMed delisted by Primary Care Physician (PCP), I looked at plans that listed my PCP. None of the plans favorably compared to AvMed. But since I already was looking at other vendors' plans, I decided to look at plans that omit my PCP from their list of providers.

I found such a plan and, surprise, it was better economically for me. AvMed was good, but Humana had a more wallet-friendly plan.

By the way, there is no such thing as a "$0 premium" plan. Medicare charges a Part B premium of about $104/month (sometimes less, sometimes more, depending on income). An advertised "$0 premium" plan means there is no additional premium paid to the vendor. On top of the $104 (plus or minus) from Medicare, the U.S. government kicks in much more, which is why there are so many vendors vying for a geezer's business.

OK, I know that on December 31, 2013 AvMed and I will part company, but to get a letter that states that I "don't have coverage" - and given the wording it has to mean I don't have coverage as of the letter's date - causes panic; the blood pressure soars and my normally calm disposition is rattled.

I call AvMed's Customer (dis)Service number and a Sweet Young Thing answers. I give her my name, rank, and serial number and finally she allows me to tell her why I am calling. She pulls up my file and assures me that I am covered through 12/31/13.

So what, young lady is your name if I need to refer back . . .

She gives me her first name and, when pressed, the last initial of her last name.

Not satisfactory. I can anticipate the response if I call back and say that "Miss [CS person's first name and last initial] told me … " I'll likely hear either (a) "We don't have anyone by that name, or (b) "We have a number of people with that name and it's impossible to know which one spoke with you."

I demanded to speak to a supervisor and was told all of her supervisors were busy. (How many supervisors does one person need?) She said she'd send an email to a specific supervisor and that person would get back to me.

A day later the supervisor did call - and explained that AvMed has a 24-hour window to return calls, something the first person failed to mention.

By now I'm thinking like a Risk management practitioner.

How can I give callers a CS person's ID without compromising their privacy?

Bingo: Employee ID. John110 or Judy10.

AvMed, the supervisor tells me, instructs its CS people to give their telephone extension. That may work IF the called notes the day/date and time of the call; I'm reasonably certain the extension is shared during the call-in hours.

Since AvMed and I are quits on the last day of the year, I suppose I shouldn't let this bother me, but it does.

AvMed generally is a good company, but of late it has had a serious problem with communication. I sent letters to two company executives, noting that I do not want a response - I think I've had enough blood pressure-boosting letters to last for awhile.

Monday, November 18, 2013


You have to wonder

According to an article in the Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel, Don Cook, the National Nuclear Security Administrator’s deputy administrator for defense programs, said the government shutdown this fall cost the agency $330 million. And that was just for defense programs around the complex, Cook said this morning at the ETEBA’s annual Business Opportunities Conference at the Knoxville Convention Center.

So how much money did POTUS save vs. how much did POTUS' shut down cost the country - in dollars and in image?

From a risk management point of view, it appears someone failed to consider the consequences.

What did POTUS shut down?

He shuttered the Internal Revenue Service, the IRS. While that had to make a lot of people happy, it cost the nation income.

He closed the federal lands- the parks and forests.

Closing the parks meant that while expenditures were reduced - no salaries to furloughed personnel - there was zero income from visitor fees. Maintenance on the properties was put off, only to be made up later.

Visitors come from around the globe not only to see our cities, but to enjoy our parks and monuments. Putting up "Closed 'Cuz we can't accord to open" signs is disgraceful and, in the end, it wasn't true anyway.

Forest lands and open ranges managed by the US Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) were closed to people who normally pay to log trees and to send livestock to graze the land. Roads were allowed to deteriorate making people who could access the lands spend extra to repair vehicle suspensions. The road repairs still had to be made, but now the potholes were bigger and deeper.

Federal workers had to go on unemployment, some were forced to use food stamps and to turn to local (state) welfare agencies. Instead of paying taxes on their wages, they were forced to take tax money.

There are ways to cut expenditures. On the top of my personal list is to discontinue Saturday residential mail delivery. The USPS claims its financial woes are linked to the Internet, so at least those with an Internet connection won't miss Saturday delivery, particularly when the delivery is mostly bills and "junk" mail.

Then there is the Affordable Care Act disaster. Millions to develop a Web presence that doesn't work. Making flat statements that POTUS won't do something and then being forced by reality to do what he said would never be done.

The "bottom line" is that the nation's bottom line is no better - and in some cases it is worse - than before the shut down.

I know POTUS is not a risk manager, but it might have been good if he had sought input from a real risk manager, not a "yes man" who pretends to manage risks.

For want of a nail . . .

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Religious Discrimination
Increases in the workplace

Religious Discrimination apparently is alive and well in the workplace according to Newsmax in an article hededCQ Steep Rise in Workplace Religious Discrimination Claims .

Suggestions on what to do about the situation are given at the Ohio Employer's Law Blog under the heading Halting the tide of religious-discrimination claims .

According to Newsmax,

    "Religious discrimination complaints in the workplace have more than doubled over the last 15 years and appear to be growing faster than other types of complaints.

    "In 2012, there were 3,811 religion-based complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the second-highest number in a year ever recorded, after 2011, when 4,151 complaints were filed, The Wall Street Journal reports.

    "While age, sex, race, and disability claims are still much higher, religious claims are increasing at a faster rate and have doubled in the last decade and a half."

The blog lists suggestions culled from a Tanenbaum report titled Six Steps to the Accommodation Mindset. The six (6) recommendations in the report include:

    1. Ask: When an employee comes to work in a turban, find out if this is due to a sincerely held religious belief (turbans are required to be worn by religious Sikhs). If so, the employer should try to accommodate (especially if it doesn't cause the employer a big burden). Even if a particular practice is not part of the traditional practices of a religion, it is protected. Case law supports the individual's right to define the way he or she will practice their religion. Thus, an employer might have to allow a Muslim woman to cover her hair even though the requirement to cover one's hair cannot be found in the Koran as a requirement of the religion.

    2. Get the Facts: Try to remember that there are many new immigrants in our country. In the past, most immigrants came from Europe. Now, most come from Asia, Africa and Latin America. Many are legally allowed to work (i.e. because they have proper papers as refugees or as legal aliens, or because they have become citizens). We even have a special visa - HB1 - that allows us to import skilled workers because we can't fill our needs from our domestic labor pool. Check with the federal government ( to be sure what documentation must be provided in each case and only ask for those papers. All work-authorized individuals are protected from document abuse. Document abuse discrimination is when employers request more or different documents than are required to verify employment eligibility and identity, reject reasonably genuine-looking documents or specify certain documents over others.

    3. Respect Differences: The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are going to have a personal impact on employees born in the United States and those who come from - or have families in - the countries embroiled in these conflicts. Employers should take both situations equally seriously and provide all such staff with the same support and benefits. According to a Tanenbaum survey:

    • Respondents not only experience religious bias, but also expect it.
    • Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists are the least comfortable and most vulnerable groups in the workplace.
    • Of these groups, Muslims feel the most vulnerable.
    • Not only did Jewish respondents report the lowest degree of discrimination - lower even than the Christians - but Jewish respondents also reported the highest level of comfort on the job.

    4. Communicate: The mere existence of a written policy on religion, in itself, reduces the perception of bias in the workplace. Implement written nondiscrimination policies covering religion, religious expression, and religious accommodation. Enforce them. And communicate them to employees. Companies need a specific policy on religion because of all the protected classes (race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, and age) cited in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, only two require accommodation: religion and disability.

    5. Educate: Tensions often arise around religious difference due to a lack of information or misinformation. Be prepared. If employees want to learn more about each other's religions, provide them with resources that can give them more info. Consider bringing in a facilitator to provide training around specific issues, i.e. why Sikhs wear turbans and Muslims pray 5 times a day. Americans don't know much about others' religions. According to the survey "For Goodness' Sake: Why So Many Want Religion to Play a Greater Role in American Life," by New York City-based Public Agenda:

    • Only 28 percent of respondents understand evangelical Christianity very well.
    • Only 17 percent understand Judaism very well.
    • Only 7 percent understand Islam very well.
    6. Be Creative: When an employee requests a religious accommodation, think creatively about ways that both the needs of the employee and the needs of the company can be met. Not only is there a good chance that a compromise can be found, but even if one isn't, this shows that the employer made a good faith effort to accommodate. A situation arose at a large hi-tech firm shortly after 9/11 where the security department insisted a new Muslim employee remove her hijab (veil) for her photo ID key card. She insisted that her religious belief prohibited her from appearing unveiled before non-familial men. Management deliberated and came up with a solution. The new employee was given two ID cards - one veiled and one unveiled. Her unveiled photo was taken and processed by a woman and would not be shown or used for entry purposes. The veiled photo card was the one programmed to unlock doors and was the one shown for ID purposes as she moved around the facility. The "bottom line" according to the Newsmax site: "Employers are generally required by law to accommodate workers as long as it does not create an "undue hardship" for their business."

    The "Six Steps to the Accommodation Mindset" reproduced with permission from The Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding. Copyright 2008 by Tanenbaum.

Monday, October 28, 2013


A war risk
Never considered

An article hededcq WWII-Era Chemical Agents In Sea Drifting Close to Poland on my daily Global Security Newswire email from Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) presents a risk I never consciously considered.

According to the Oct. 28, 2013 article, Chemical-warfare materials dumped in the ocean after World War II have been discovered by scientists drifting closer to Polish territory than was previously known, United Press International reported on Monday.

A minimum of 15,000 metric tons of German chemical armaments were demilitarized by Russian and U.K. forces by being poured into the Gotland Deep -- an 800-foot-deep Baltic Sea basin positioned between the Baltic states and Sweden. The dumped chemical agents included mustard blister agent and tabun nerve agent.

Researchers believe the moldering chemical agent still represents a danger to the surrounding marine life as well as to nearby fishermen and beach-goers that might come across washed-up munitions.

Obviously, the Russian and U.K. forces that "poured (the chemicals into the Gotland Deep" either failed to consider the potential risks or simply didn't care; the waters into which the chemicals were dumped were near neither Britain nor Russia.

Remnants of war should have been considered, although I confess that such "souvenirs" never crossed this scrivener's mind. Land mines left over from wars past still claim lives; likewise unexploded shells are commonly found in Europe when holes are dug for new construction foundations.

The greatest "water" risks in my area are sharks and pollution. Both can incapacitate personnel and that can disrupt business as usual. Unexploded ordinance can be found in most countries that have gone to war or that have practiced going to war. At least we are alerted to migrating sharks and dangerously high pollution levels before venturing into the water.

Watching the news - history in the making - must be considered an integral part of "keeping current" for every risk management practitioner. It is an extension of group dynamics when the practitioner gathers everyone together to - with apologies to Intel - "imagine the possibilities."

No one person can think of everything, but practitioners can expand the risks lists by reading a variety of publications, both general and professional, by gathering client personnel for no-holds-barred sessions where no risk is too off the wall, and by communicating with other practitioners, but the latter must be a two way exchange.

What is DONE about individual risks is a matter of prioritization and management decision; but all risks, no matter how "off the wall" they may seem, deserve consideration.


If I wrote it, you may quote it.

Friday, October 25, 2013




Simple way to protect ships

"Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it." Edmund Burke. (Later, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás, Reason in Common Sense, The Life of Reason, Vol.1 )

(CNN) -- Armed men stormed a boat off Nigeria's coast and took hostage two mariners believed to be U.S. citizens, a U.S. official said Thursday.

Pirates kidnapped the captain and chief engineer from a U.S.-flagged oil platform supply vessel in the Gulf of Guinea on Wednesday, the official said.

Details about the crew members' conditions and the condition of their ship, the C-Retriever, were not immediately available.

Louisiana-based Edison Chouest Offshore, which owns the vessel, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Travel by sea can be perilous in the region where the attack occurred, one analyst said Thursday.

"The danger there is extreme," said Capt. Don Marcus, president of the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots.

According to Wikipedia, in Somalia, there were 151 attacks on ships in 2011, compared with 127 in 2010 - but only 25 successful hijacks compared to 47 in 2010. Pirates were holding 10 vessels and 159 hostages in February 2012. In 2011, pirates earned $146m, an average of $4.87m per ship. An estimated 3,000 to 5,000 pirates operated; by February 2012 1,000 had been captured and were going through legal processes in 21 countries.

Wikipedia provides a table of ships seized by pirates off Somalia since 2005.

In a CNN article dated Oct. 22, 2009, pirates seized control of a cargo vessel near the Seychelles Thursday, one of two attacks that took place within minutes of each other off the coast of east Africa, according to the European Union Naval Force.

A second attempted hijacking took place at approximately the same time, but the Italian-flagged cargo ship evaded the attack, the EU said. Armed with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades, pirates opened fire on the MV Jolly Rosso about 460 miles (740 km) east of Mombasa, Kenya.

The first nine months of this year has seen more pirate attacks than all of last year, the bureau reported on Wednesday. From January 1 until September 30, pirates worldwide mounted 306 attacks, compared with 293 in all of 2008, it said.

More than half of this year's attacks were carried out by suspected Somali pirates off the east coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden, a major shipping route between Yemen and Somalia. Out of those attacks, Somali pirates successfully hijacked 32 vessels and took 533 hostages. Eight others were wounded, four more killed and one is missing, the bureau said.

The attacks can be stopped but it takes cooperation between the navies operating in the area - including the Chinese who have made their presence felt there - and the owners of civilian merchant ships plying the waters near from Oman to Egypt. (Yes, I know the short route is via the Suez Canal; more on the Canal later.)

The idea of convoys of merchant ships escorted by naval vessels is not new; it dates back to the 12th century. According to Wikipedia, "The use of organized naval convoys dates from when ships began to be separated into specialist classes and national navies were established.

Photo from

"By the French Revolutionary Wars of the late 18th century, effective naval convoy tactics had been developed to ward off pirates and privateers. Some convoys contained several hundred merchant ships. The most enduring system of convoys were the Spanish treasure fleets, that sailed from the 1520s until 1790."

Granted, a merchant ship sailing between Oman and Egypt would be time consuming. Traversing the Suez Canal would provide for a much shorter trip, but escorts still would be needed from Sudan to Oman. Currently Egypt is not a pirate haven, although Libya has been know to host pirates, ergo its inclusion as a terminus.

Who would pay for the escort service? The owners of the ships being escorted. The fees would, naturally, be passed along to the customers.

The alternative is to train and arm the crews to a level that they can repel attacks. To the best of my knowledge, only Israel's Zim does this, which may explain why there are no attacks on ships flying Israel's colors. A cargo vessel is a much more stable platform from which to fire weapons than the pirates' smaller attack vessels. The only disadvantage for the merchant ship is head count - a modern container ship has a crew of less than 10.

Since merchant ship crews often are pick-up crews made of several nationalities and loyalties, "weaponizing" ships a la Zim is generally contra-indicated.

Which brings us back to convoys.

A look at the map of Africa and its close Asian neighbors (Yemen, Oman), along with a history or pirate attacks would indicate where convoy protection is most needed. The need for protection along one coastline may change from time to time depending on local political and economic conditions. Shipping companies can check with their foreign offices (in U.S., the State Department) for fairly up-to-date information. Likewise, navies can shift their resources as necessary.

Africa, by the way, is not the only place pirates call home. They also operate out of the Pacific. According to the U.S. State Department's site, "Piracy at sea is a worldwide phenomenon which has affected not only the coasts of Africa, but also Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Yemen, and Venezuela. U.S. citizens considering travel by sea should exercise caution when near and within these coastal areas."

A naval presence does greatly reduce the threat of piracy. According to the State Department, "Pirate activity in the Straits of Malacca has declined significantly since 2005 due to increased military patrols and vessel security."

"Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute." A famous expression often linked to the Marines at Tripoli; in truth it is associated with a U.S. disagreement with France. None-the-less, if piracy is to be eliminated, the pirates' victims should bear at least part of the cost - the rest can be billed to the navies as "training expenses."

Today there are two options:

One: Arm the crews with weapons to successfully defend their ships and train the crews to use the weapons safely. (Will they use them when needed?)

Two: Convoys.


If I wrote it, you may quote it

Thursday, October 24, 2013


Expensive cover

In a New York Post exclusive hededcq Obama wants Marines to wear "girly" hats we are told that Obungler is proposing that the taxpayer shell out US$8 million on new covers (hats) for Jarheads and Jarhead'ettes.

The proposed covers are a throwback to a previous generation of Marines, a generation that included Sgt. Dan Daily who won not one but two Congressional Medals of Honor. The proposed covers are similar to NY Fire Department dress hats.

As a former Air Force enlistee, who wore both a barracks hat and an "overseas" cap (called by a rather unflattering name due to its design), I really don't care what covers the Marines wear; ditto for the other services.

But as a taxpayer obliged by "my" government to pay off a recently raised again multi-trillion dollar foreign debt, I am, to be polite, "upset" by the proposed expenditure of $8 million, particularly when Washington tells us we are in a budget crunch. Apparently it is "Do as I say, not as I do" for our elected officials in D.C.

Unfortunately, the "cost be damned uniform scam" foisted on the taxpayer and military lifers for uniform changes is nothing new. The Air Force has been continually messing with its Blues almost since its inception (separation from the Army).

While BRAC closes bases, while missile defense sites are declared unnecessary, the Pentagon - now apparently at the urging of the Commander in Chief - that's POTUS or, currently, Obungler wants to spend millions on new covers for the Marines.

Granted, compared to the national debt's TRILLIONS, a few millions is chump change - and I emphasize "chump" for that's what, IMO, POTUS must consider the taxpayer.

I'll admit, based on the NY Post's graphic of the current and proposed covers, the proposed hat for women Marines is a better choice; the barracks hat looks oversized and awkward on the girl in the dress uniform.

The bottom line for this taxpayer is: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." That applies to military uniforms as well as government in general.

If I'm heavily in debt, I don't go out buying new suits; I look for ways to put my limited funds where I need them. Maybe if I could just print money . . . but I can's (legally).

What's next?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

ERM-BC-COOP in a minute:

Job prep & recovery time
Issues can prove expensive

Being involved in a legal action, even it the organization prevails, is expensive and can lead to an interruption to "business as usual."

Lately I have been reading about more and more court cases on complaints by workers claiming they were not paid for mandatory work done prior to, and following, work hours.

For example, a bus driver has to report 15 minutes early to inspect and prepare his bus to accept passengers. His formal work shift begins at 7 a.m., but because he has 15 minutes "prep" time, he actually begins work at 6:45 a.m.

Think about the person who has to "suit up" to work in either a clean room or a potentially contaminated area - a nuclear plant, for example. Not only does the employee have to take time to prepare for the job, the employee also needs time to doff the protective gear after the work day is complete.

On the clock or off the clock?

This is not a matter of a minute or two, although even that adds up over time, but 10, 15, 20, or more minutes every work day.

Unless the pre- and post-job time is covered in a union contract, and sometimes even if it is covered by contract, eventually someone will demand payment for the time spent prepping for the job and time spent "recovering" to pre-work status (changing back to "civilian" clothing; showering, decontamination, etc.).

While nothing is 100 percent certain, the threat of court or work action (strike) can be mitigated by a clearly written and publicized policy and procedure (P&P) covering prep and recovery time. In a union environment, developing a P&P must be done with union participation. In non-union organizations, it is advisable to include effected employees at all levels in the P&P development.


If I wrote it, you may quote it.


Change passwords early and often

Thursday, October 10, 2013


Politics as risk

When I would tell clients that they should – I prefer “must,” but consultants only can suggest – consider “politics” as a risk, for most of the clients I was thinking locally: town councils, planning and zoning boards, streets, public safety. I also was thinking about state-level politics, but “not so much.” With the exception of vendors to the Federal government, Washington was almost an after-thought.

How much impact could the Federal government have on a local, or even interstate, business?

It turns out quite a bit.

Forget about the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that can shut down airports and disrupt business travel), or Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that likewise interrupts business travel as well as import and export activities; these agencies must be considered risks for almost every organization that has any over-a-border interest.

Consider the Obama regime. It has shut down much of the government essentially over the Affordable Health Care Act, a.k.a Obamacare, including those agencies that generate revenue. It threatens to shut down most of the remaining services if an yet another hike of the Federal debt ceiling is refused. This follows a sequester of funds and services.

The President of the United States – POTUS – by fiat shut down the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the agencies that run Federal parks, monuments, etc.

In southeast Florida, that shut down means that the Everglades National Park and Biscayne National Park are closed. Translation: For tourists, no entry and for the government, no entry fees. For businesses that operated on or into the park, it means they are out of busyness; they cannot get to their business.

Three headlines in the Miami (FL) Herald tell the plight in South Florida communities:

Keys fishing guides protest closure of Everglades National Park A

    ISLAMORADA -- Each day at noon, Capt. Matt Bellinger usually does his local radio fishing update from somewhere in the back country of the vast Everglades National Park, where he takes clients to fish for snook and tarpon or photograph birds and other wildlife.

    He always ends his updates with his mantra: “Get on the water. And go fish!”

    But on Wednesday, sunny with calm seas and a gentle breeze — a perfect day to be out on the water — Bellinger could not take clients to his beloved fishing grounds. Like all 401 national parks, the Everglades National Park was closed by the government shutdown.

Miami’s Biscayne National Park won’t be open to boaters during Columbus Day Weekend

    Like the rest of its counterparts around the country, Biscayne National Park is closed because of the federal government shutdown — but not if you want to fish, boat through on your way somewhere else, or seek shelter in a storm.

    But the thousands of powerboaters who normally gather in park waters over the upcoming Columbus Day weekend to anchor, raft, play music, dance and drink will not be welcome.

    Diving and snorkeling also are prohibited.

Fishing guides want back in Everglades

    ISLAMORADA, Fla. -- Frustrated by partial shutdown that has closed Everglades National Park and 400 other national parks across the country, fishing guides in the Florida Keys spearheaded a rally Wednesday hoping to convince federal officials to let them back into park waters.

    Although Keys state and offshore waters remain open to anglers, fall is a prime season for visitors to fish in the park's shallow estuaries for prized gamefish, such as snook, tarpon, redfish and trout.

    Guides who depend on that for income have lost money and are frustrated with Washington leadership's inability to pass a budget to fully reopen federal resources.

And that’s just the tip of the peninsula. I would provide a map of Federal parks in Florida but “Because of the federal government shutdown, all national parks are closed and National Park Service webpages are not operating. For more information, go to” And then we are told to “Experience Your America.”

An aside: the Interior Department’s Web site does provide Information on the Department's preparation of contingency plans for a possible government shutdown in October, 2013.

The DOI’s mandate includes:

  • Departmental Contingency Plan
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs
  • Bureau of Indian Education
  • Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
  • Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
  • Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement
  • Bureau of Reclamation
  • Fish and Wildlife Service
  • National Park Service
  • Office of the Inspector General
  • Office of Insular Affairs
  • Office of the Secretary
  • Office of the Solicitor
  • Office of the Special Trustee
  • Office of Surface Mining
  • US Geological Survey

Back in the day when I was an honest newspaper reporter & editor in Nevada, I came to learn how much ranchers, farmers, timbermen, and others depended on access to Federal lands controlled by BLM or the Forest Service, the latter’s Web site announces “Due to the lapse in agency funding, the sale of all types of permits (i.e., recreation, firewood, forest products, mineral materials for example) are suspended, reservations are suspended, and all federally owned recreation sites are closed. All offices are closed. These services will be available once funding is restored.”

Much of the Forest Service’s mandate includes revenue producing activities.

Another aside: I wonder what this means to people who have built year-round homes on Federal lands; will they be able to access them? Will the roads be allowed to deteriorate to the point where nothing less than a tracked vehicle will be able to travel on them sans serious damage?

Looking into the future and assuming the Affordable Care Act, apparently the major bone of contention between Republicans and the President - is sustained, what will happen to those insured under the Act if something like this political flap happens again? For that matter, on a personal level, what will happen to seniors who contract with Medicare vendors paid from Social Security funds? (The vendors get substantially more than the Part B $102/month per insured.) If Social Security shuts its wallet – the threat if the debt ceiling is not raised – and will the vendors continue to pay for the senior’s care; will the vendors be able to pay for their client’s care?

While many businesses are not directly impacted by the current and promised threats, many will indirectly feel the impact. (Consider education, veterans - already penalized. The list goes on and on.)

Bottom line: When thinking about “government as a risk” (and it truly IS a risk) practitioners must look beyond local and state governments and consider the Federal government as well.


If I wrote it, you may quote it

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


Lesson from a doctor

According to an article in the San Antonio Express-News’ mySA site heded Poor penmanship costs doctor $380,000, “A local physician whose illegible handwriting led to the fatal overdose of an elderly patient was ordered by a civil court jury Thursday to pay $380,000 in damages to the woman's family.”

While most Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) and Business Continuity/COOP practitioners eschew the pen in favor of a keyboard, the point of the article, at least as this practitioner sees it, is the necessity to make certain the audience gets the correct message.

It is not the audience’s job to try to interpret the practitioner’s words; it is the practitioner’s job to communicate to the audience in a manner the audience comprehends.

By the way, the operative word is “comprehend,” not “education” or “position.” Neither necessarily equates to comprehension of a specific subject.

According to the San Antonio paper, the doctor “changed his mind about the dosage, intending to increase it (from 10) to 20 millamoles(NB), testimony during the weeklong trial indicated.

“However, instead of scratching out the original amount on the form or starting over, he attempted to write a “2” over the “1,” the doctor acknowledged.

“The result, witnesses said, was a misinterpretation by nurses and pharmacists that the doctor had ordered 120 millimoles — a dosage described by plaintiff's attorneys as very obviously fatal.”

Most practitioners find they must communicate with multiple audiences – very senior management, middle/line management, and the folks in the trenches. Add to that that the folks in the IT trench may not have the same vocabulary as the folks in the HR or production trenches.

Fortunately, there are ways to mitigate the problem.

One way is to let someone else create the plan documentation. At the same time, this can exacerbate the problem; instead of the scrivener getting the information directly from the source, the writer gets it second hand from the practitioner.

    There was a game children played when I was in primary school. Kids sat in a circle. One child whispered a word or sentence to the next child. The second child told the third child. This continued until the last child “got the word.” That child was asked to tell everyone what the child thought the first child said. Then the first child said what really was said. The two responses never matched.

No matter who creates the document, each section of the document that covers a functional unit – facilities, HR, IT, Production, Purchasing, Shipping/Receiving, etc. – must review its portion of the document.

If – and most do – a section overlaps other sections; e.g., a process being handed off from Section “A” to Section “B” and, after Section “B” completes its tasks, hands the process to Section “C,” the related sections must review their parts of the Section “B” document.

If there are major revisions, the revised sections need a follow-up review by the sections’ Subject Matter Experts (SMEs).

Practitioners need not be SMEs in all fields, nor should they be expected to be an SME in anything other than risk management. I understand a little about IT, but I depend on the IT SMEs to make certain I understand the processes if not the terminology.

It’s a good idea, when gathering information, to note the source and the source’s contact information. The source for process information ideally will be the person who performs the process.

    Keep in mind that the process may be different when recovering from an event than normal, day-to-day operations.

Documentation that is incomplete, poorly structured, or poorly worded is worse that no documentation at all.

The practitioner – or the professional scrivener – must keep foremost in mind the audience’s requirements and the audience’s technical vocabulary, be it HR-speak or IT-jargon.

Anything less and the practitioner could end up in court.


millimole (mmol)
a unit of metric measurement that is equal to one thousandth (10-3) of a mole. It is the amount of a substance that corresponds to its formula mass in milligrams.

the amount of a substance that contains as many elementary entities (atoms, ions, molecules, or free radicals) as there are atoms in 0.012 kg of carbon 12 (12C), i.e., Avogadro's number, 6.023 × 1023, of elementary entities.
Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Seventh Edition. © 2003 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.


If I wrote it, you may quote it.

Monday, October 7, 2013


It pays to invite
Emergency Services
To visit before need

A Wall Street Journal article on its Corporate Intelligence page titled A Note to Firefighters: How Not to Extinguish a Flaming Tesla showed a photo of a crumpled Tesla with flames coming from beneath the vehicle followed by the following text:

“In trying to put out that stock-market fire (caused by the accident and fire), Tesla founder Elon Musk has let real-world firefighters know that standard operating procedures aren’t going to work when dealing with a flaming electric luxury sedan. From Musk’s blog post on the incident.”

According to the blog, “When the fire department arrived, they observed standard procedure, which was to gain access to the source of the fire by puncturing holes in the top of the battery's protective metal plate and applying water. For the Model S lithium-ion battery, it was correct to apply water (vs. dry chemical extinguisher), but not to puncture the metal firewall, as the newly created holes allowed the flames to then vent upwards into the front trunk section of the Model S. Nonetheless, a combination of water followed by dry chemical extinguisher quickly brought the fire to an end.”

Unfortunately the blog failed to state how firefighters should have attached the fire.

In days of yesteryear (Hi Yo Silver!) I worked for a company that made automotive airbags. The airbags were inflated using a small dose of Class A explosive.

Like most organizations that store hazardous materials on site, the company had worked closely with the local constabulary and fire brigade so that if something DID go “boom in the night,” all responders would know what to expect and how to proceed.

Almost every organization has something that can be “hazardous to your health” at one time or another. Cleaning materials may seem innocuous as they sit in their containers in a normal environment. But add fire and there is the potential for both a poisonous gas and an explosion. Fire fighters need to know (a) what is used/stored on site and (b) where it is used/stored on site.

Firefighters, and police, too, need to know the layout of all facilities: the entrances and exits, the power panels, the water stand pipes, and any fuel lines with the related cutoff valves.

    Just a thought: If the Emergency Services people are expected to come to the site via the parking lot, it might be wise to have people assemble for a post-evacuation nose count somewhere other than the parking lot. Just a thought.


If I wrote it, you may quote it.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


Americans working overseas
Still covered by US laws?

Risk Management Advice for HR

According to in an articled hededCQ Employees Who Work Abroad: Are They Covered by U.S. Employment Laws?, “just because an employee works beyond U.S. borders doesn’t automatically exempt him from the protections of the various federal employment statutes. This article provides a brief overview of the applicability (or inapplicability) of the major federal employment laws—Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the Equal Pay Act (EPA), and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)—to employees working abroad.”

Some of the U.S. laws apply even when the employee is working for an organization only controlled by a U.S. company.

According to the article from Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP, , not everyone working outside the U.S.’ borders are protected by Title VII, ADAAA, and ADEA. Excluded from the laws’ protections are “non-U.S. citizens even if they’re working abroad for an American employer or a foreign corporation controlled by an American employer, and U.S. citizens working abroad for foreign entities that are not controlled by an American employer.”

    What is not clear to this scrivener are the protections available to a U.S. citizen employed initially by a foreign company operating in the U.S. , e.g., British Airways, RBC, Zim, who is transferred to a non-U.S. location.

Other U.S. employment laws that may apply include:

  • Fair Standards Labor Act (FSLA) – Does not apply (however local laws may apply).

  • Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA): Applies only in the U.S. and any Territory or possession of the United States (however local laws may apply).

The above is concerned only with U.S. employment law. Employers must be cognizant of laws in force at the (foreign) place-of-employment.

  • Title VII prohibits discrimination and harassment based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin

  • The ADAAA prohibits discrimination based on disability.

  • The ADEA prohibits discrimination against individuals age 40 and older.

CAVEAT: Get advice from your own legal staff.
This blog’s author is not and attorney
nor does he play one on tv.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


It pays to invite
Emergency Services
To visit facilities

An article on the site hededcq Boardwalk's unique aspects challenge firefighters reminds that it pays to invite emergency service/public safety personnel – EMTs, fire, police – to participate in risk management planning.

In some instances, e.g., where HAZMAT is on site, this interface with public safety departments may be mandated by local law. In all cases, it is just (a) good business practice, (b) common sense, or (c), both. Failure to include emergency services is foolish and can be costly.

Inviting public safety personnel to visit facilities benefits the organization both in the immediate term and in the event of an “incident.”

NOTE: The follow bullets are NOT “all inclusive.”

Fire brigade:

  • Checks access and exit points to assure all personnel, including mobility impaired (that’s “PC” for handicapped and includes anything from inability to walk sans assistance to vision limitations to pregnancy); does the facility comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act?
  • Checks for adequacy of fire suppression equipment (fire extinguishers, hoses, etc.) and training of personnel to use this equipment.
  • Checks to assure there are exit maps in prominent locations.
  • Checks and maps the location of electrical panels and shut-off switches.
  • Checks and maps the location of all hazardous materials, including cleaning materials that by themselves may be harmless but when combined may form a deadly or explosive gas.
  • May assist in setting up staff fire wardens, setting their functions, and identifying suitable equipment, e.g., short-range two-way radios, powerful flashlights, colorful clothing/head gear)


  • Are all areas where personnel – staff and visitors – congregate safe and well-lit; including parking areas?
  • Are doors and windows secure and alarmed?
  • Are facilities available to secure sensitive documents?
  • Are procedures for identification of staff and visitors, including vendors, in place?
  • Are security-related policies and procedures in place or at least being considered?


  • Checks for presence of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) and training for most likely users.
  • Checks qualifications of first responders and trains if necessary.
  • Checks for suitable litters – are they “stair-friendly,” will they fit into an elevator?
  • Provide a list of recommended over-the-counter (OTC) medicines and other products (e.g., bandages, ointments) that should be on hand for minor emergencies, and trains personnel in their use.
  • Trains staff to recognize signs of stroke, heart attack, and other common medical events where early detection is critical.
  • Early warning signs of stroke and heart attack are given below.

One of the public service agencies, perhaps all, should help establish a procedure to notify the appropriate agency when help is needed. Do people call direct or, better, do people report an instance to a central number (e.g., reception, HR) so that whoever is on duty can (a) send a trained staff responder to assist and (b) call for emergency services.

It also is worthwhile to include insurance adjusters who also can help identify risks. Risk management is not a process that is done by one person.



  • Sudden confusion

  • Trouble speaking or understanding speech

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, hand, or leg (especially on one side of the body)

  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes (such as double vision, blurred vision, or blindness)

  • Sudden trouble walking

  • Sudden dizziness or lightheadedness

  • Sudden loss of balance or coordination

  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause

  • Vomiting

  • Seizures (in a small number of cases


  • Pain, fullness, and/or squeezing sensation of the chest

  • Jaw pain, toothache, headache

  • Shortness of breath

  • Nausea, vomiting, and/or general epigastric (upper middle abdomen) discomfort

  • Sweating

  • Heartburn and/or indigestion

  • Arm pain (more commonly the left arm, but may be either arm)

  • Upper back pain

  • General malaise (vague feeling of illness)
  • No symptoms (approximately one quarter of all heart attacks are silent, without chest pain or new symptoms and silent heart attacks are especially common among patients with diabetes mellitus).


If I wrote it, you may quote it.

Thursday, September 12, 2013



Ever been asked to answer a “few simple question” for a poll?

Back in the day, when Hector was a pup and I was a “print journalist,” I had a once-a-week assignment to go out onto the sidewalks of beautiful downtown Harrisburg PA to ask random people The Question of the Week; always something topical that my boss (“Slim” Milliron) or I contrived.

Never mind if the “feels like” temperature was 0F or that snow was blowing at 30 mph; if it was Thursday afternoon, I had to hit the bricks to find three people willing to (a) answer The Question and (b) allow my tag-along (and equally suffering) photographer to shoot a mug shot of those willing to answer The Question.

The thing that prompts this exercise is a snippet on the Advisen FPN email I receive 5 days-a-week than reads:

PCI Study Finds Americans Support Federal Role in Terrorism Insurance Market

A majority of likely American voters favor a federal role in protecting against losses related to a terrorist attack, representatives of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America said during a Sept. 11 conference call. The study conducted by GS Strategy Group on behalf of PCI found 90% of respondents supported having the federal government play...

I never found the article on the WWW, but I have to wonder

  • What constitutes a “likely American voter”?
  • How many people participated in the survey?
  • Where was the survey given?
  • How were the questions asked?
  • How were the respondents selected?
  • Were the responders anonymous?

  • How were the questions phrased?

Any pollster worth his or her salt can design a survey/questionnaire to elicit the responses the pollster or the pollster’s client desires.

It’s not WHAT you say, but HOW you say it. Old truth from my junior high days. Are you still beating your spouse?

In the poll cited by Advisen, I wonder if the question was:

    Do you think the government should pay for terrorism insurance?

But consider

    Are you willing to pay extra taxes for government terrorism insurance?

Phrased the first way, the cost of the insurance is borne by “the government,” not by the individual taxpayer, never mind that taxes will fund the insurance.

Phrased the second way, Joe Taxpayer plainly sees that he will pay the cost.

Question: Should the minimum wage be raised?

If you ask someone my age, whose first post-service job paid the minimum wage of $1, the response likely will be “No.”

If you ask a young adult with dreams of family and home, the response probably will be “Yes.”

Rephrase the question to be: Are you willing to pay an extra (??) for a hamburger or for a dozen eggs or a gallon of fuel? Smokers are the only people, as a group, who will, albeit reluctantly, bite the bullet and pay whatever the price for their pleasure.

About the only surveys to which I respond are those asking how I liked the treatment at this place or that.

Part of the problem with surveys/questionnaires is that rarely does the responder have the ability to do more than select a pollster-defined answer (Yes/No, 0 through 10, This vs. That). Reality can’t be captured with pre-defined answers; on the other hand, the pollsters would have a nightmare trying to compile verbose responses.

My bottom line: If you are planning to tell me that n percentage of y group prefer z action/condition, then also give me the details on how the information was gathered and compiled.

Questionnaires/surveys, like statistics, can be manipulated to support any desired position/point of view; the best those of us lacking input into the survey/statistic development is to demand all the information about the questions and the responders.


If I wrote it, you may quote it.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Wireless communication
With on-the-road employee
Can lead to legal consequences

CYA with advertised, enforced P&P

Two New Jersey teens were texting while one was driving.

The vehicle driven by the teen on the road struck and injured two people.

The injured parties sued both the teenage driver and his texting partner, the latter on the grounds “that (the partner) had was contributorily negligent in that she ‘aided and abetted’ (the driver’s) unlawful texting while driving and second, that (the partner) had an independent duty to avoid texting a person whom she knew was driving.”

The case made its way to an appellate court that ruled that “We hold that the sender of a text message can potentially be liable if an accident is caused by texting, but only if the sender knew or had a special reason to know that the recipient would view the text while driving and thus be distracted.”

The bottom line according to a Kirsten Thompson article in The Second Opinion titled Sender of a Text Message Can Be Liable for Distracting a Driver is that

  1. Employers, especially those which use wireless communication for their field employees (e.g. dispatch, work order management, etc.), may want to ensure their policies around such communication clearly state that they are not to be used while driving. A robust policy in this regard may assist in establishing that the employer had a reasonable expectation that an employee would not review any communications received while driving. Certain employers, particularly those using communications technologies that are integrated into vehicles, may want to consider installing technologies that disable such communication while the vehicle is in motion.
  2. Similarly, auto manufacturers that have embedded communication technologies may wish to include strong warnings about the use of such technologies while driving or even consider making available the option of a kill switch that disables the technologies while the vehicle is in motion

For the ERM practitioner, the criticality of policies and procedures (P&Ps) once again comes to the fore.

While ERM practitioners normally do not create P&Ps, they should try to work closely with the people who DO crate P&Ps – typically HR and Legal – to make certain the P&Ps are read and understood by all personnel

    (a)  When the P&P is initially published.

    (b) )  When a new hire comes on board.

    (c) )  At an annual review, either near the employee’s hire anniversary or at an “all hands” annual meeting.

The duty of an ERM practitioner is to alert management about potential threats and then to recommend means to avoid or at least mitigate the threat.


If I wrote it, you may quote it

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


Didn’t read
the small print

Aussie court rules that’s OK

A Mondaq article titled We've always done it this way: when does prior conduct result in a term being incorporated into a contract? ( reports that the WA Court of Appeal ruled that reading the fine print isn’t necessary.

The case on which the appeals court ruled involved a long-standing relationship between a vendor and the vendor’s client.

Over the years, the two parties agreed that when the client needed the vendor’s services, the client would pick up the phone and order the service. The vendor would provide the service and then submit an invoice.

The back of the invoice listed the vendor’s terms and conditions and included an exclusion clause.

After one instance, the vendor invoked the exclusion clause. The client claimed it never read the back of the invoice – it was, according to the client, just a bill.

According to the Mondaq report, the appeals court decided that

    (a) there was no evidence that client actually had read the terms, and

    (b) it was reasonable for a person to regard the invoice as simply a request for payment rather than a document containing contractual terms governing the transaction that had already occurred.

Mondaq’s conclusion is that “This case highlights the danger of contracting to provide services without having explicitly agreed the terms and conditions of the contract, especially dangerous when negotiating an oral contract. The fact that a person has contracted with you before does not mean that a term will always be incorporated into a contract because of the prior dealings.”

Take aways

  1. In an on-going client-vendor relationship, make sure everyone has a copy of the relevant terms and conditions
  2. Make certain that both client and vendor have identical copies of the terms and conditions; differences might require a court to sort them out after the fact.
  3. Even though one party prevails, everyone will have legal expenses and lost productivity.
  4. Read both (all) pages of an invoice. If a separate agreement is in place (Item 1) covering terms and conditions, make certain it is superior to anything on an invoice and that the agreement is signed off by both vendor and client.

Although the Australian appeals court ruled in the client’s favor, there is no guarantee that courts elsewhere will come to the same conclusion given a similar set of circumstances.

A little due diligence by both parties could have avoided the expensive court dates.

Granted, reading contacts is generally out of scope for a business continuity planner, but suggesting best practices is in scope. For an ERM practitioner, working with Legal to develop policies and procedures should be Standard Operating Procedure (SOP).


If I wrote it, you may quote it.


Who would'a thought?

Risk management is more than just looking at the organization.

It requires a little - or a lot of - curiosity and a strong look beyond the obvious.

Some examples.

Distant fire endangers san Francisco

As firefighters battle the Rim Fire in Yosemite National Park, the folks in San Francisco, roughly 200 miles to the west of the park, must be concerned with both their water supply and the electricity grid that serves the area.

The Rim fire has got the City's Emergency Management people concerned; they probably were aware of the risks associated with a wild fire in the park.

I would suggest however, that the business continuity folks at the several major banks with headquarters or major operations in the City never gave a thought to threats emanating from the national park.

I lived briefly in San Francisco - long enough to learn not to call it "Frisco" and that the cable cars are more than just a tourist attraction - but I never considered what might be a threat from far away Yosemite. That was OK; I was working as a reporter at the time and such things were not on my radar.

Different perspectives

I preach that practitioners must take into account the mentality of the organization.

Still in California, but not in the City, I took in the movie Tora, Tora, Tora. For those who missed it, Tora*3 is a pseudo-documentary of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Good movie; enlightening movie.

But what made it particularly memorable was that a large portion of the audience cheered for the Japanese. I doubt these people were anti-American; they just were proud of their Japanese heritage. (The town, for what it's worth, had hosted a German POW camp and many in the town at the time had pro-German sympathies; the Japanese already had been herded into concentration camps by the U.S. government.)

Desert floods

Phoenix AZ and Los Vegas NV are desert towns. Flooding should never be a concern.

But flooding is a concern for both places.

I never gave flooding in either place a thought until I talked to a fellow with a data warehouse business in Phoenix. Searching for risks to the business I quickly discovered that flooding is a very real concern, both from heavy rain and from spring thaws in the mountains. (Phoenix has an almost unique threat: sand storms. A major chip manufacturer had a Star Trek-like air lock to keep sand outside the manufacturing facility.)

There is some interesting Arizona flood statistics at

Although I lived in Nevada (Ely), I never made it south to Las Vegas. When I was there as editor of the 5-afternoon newspaper, Ely's biggest threats were (a) loss of the town's reason to exist, and (b) isolation. Ely was on a valley floor at 6,000 foot elevation. Weather could close the roads and the airport. The loss of the major employer eventually happened, but by then Ely and I had parted company. For all that, Ely was a great little town in which to live.

Not my fault

When I lived in Norfolk VA and worked for a marine transportation company (container ships, bulk cargo, etc.) I created a plan for the headquarter's operation.

During my research I discovered that California was hardly the only place in the U.S. with fault lines; fault lines mean high probability of earthquakes. The New Madrid fault in the central United States is particularly dangerous. The fault is among the most active in the country, running from St. Louis MO to Memphis TN. Turns out, 39 of the 50 states have fault lines, and therefore the threat of an earthquake.

Norfolk was not on a fault line, but it was close enough to cause minor concern - a 3 on a scale of 10, and that mostly related to moving cargo inland by rail or truck.

USGS illustration

Epicenters of "significant" - felt by people - earthquakes in Virginia (up to 2009, does not show 2011 quake) Source: USGS National Atlas

Any practitioner who limits his or her threat list to the organization is doing a disservice to the organization (unless of course the practitioner is forbidden from doing what needs doing).

Most of the threats listed above fall under the "environmental" umbrella, but unlike the typical umbrella, they are more like a beach umbrella that covers a great deal more territory.

Practitioners need to look beyond the organization and beyond the organization's immediate area. Yosemite National Park is roughly 200 miles from the heart of San Francisco, but the massive Rim fire threatened both the City's water and electrical supplies.

While there is little a practitioner can do to prevent a forest fire hundreds of miles distant, the practitioner should be aware of the threats and arrange to avoid or mitigate the threats exactly as the practitioner would any local threat.

But first, the practitioner needs to identify the threat, and that demands a certain level of curiosity.


If I wrote it you may quote it.

Sunday, September 1, 2013


Futurist SME

You can find things of ERM interest in many different places.

I’m reading a novel* that involves organogenesis and some Wall Streeters who were buying life insurance policies at 15 cents-on-the-dollar from people with diabetes and other life-shortening diseases, people who due to the economy or cost of medical care were unable to continue paying policy premiums.

The ERM connection is that the Wall Streeters thought they had covered all the bases to assure their scheme would be highly profitable - the Wall Streeters would buy the policies, pay the policy premiums for what they expected to be a limited time, and then collect the policy's face value when the former policy owner died. They even hired a company to "run the numbers" based on actuarial statistics to assure the worthiness of their scheme.

Unfortunately, the Wall Streeters and their statistics vendor were putting their eggs into the proverbial basket based on history. They overlooked near-future possibilities such as the development of test-tube organs (organogenesis).

Moneyman: “You guys didn’t see this coming?”

Wall Streeters: “It’s a once-in-a-century breakthrough; you can’t do projections for being hit by an asteroid.”

No one - neither the statisticians nor the Wall Streeters - apparently were aware that growing replacement organs for human transplantation was as advanced as it is; in particular organogenesis of the panaceas, the critical organ for diabetes patients.

It's a good yarn, and for ERM practitioners it offers a lesson, perhaps several.

Most ERM practitioners look at statistics - call it "historical facts" if you will - to try to ascertain what threats are possible and probable for any given organization. What are traffic patterns? What do the neighbors do? What is the MTBF and MTTR for critical hardware; computers, mailers, PBX, etc.? What are the environmental risks: hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, tornados, etc.?

We also are concerned with an endless series of "What ifs." What if a vendor fails? What if a primary client cancels a contract?

What we usually don't consider is where are science and technology going?

The product or service need not be sophisticated or high tech. Consider light bulbs. Who would have guessed that the government would mandate CFLs and effectively ban manufacture and sale of incandescent bulbs?

Shedding light on more bulbs, who predicted that automobile headlights would shrink from large sealed beams to tiny halogens?

For the Wall Streeters in the novel, the advanced stage of organogenesis was a "black swan," but it should not have been a swan of any color. While the Wall Streeters thought they had done "due diligence" by relying on historical information and by engaging a statistics firm to "run the numbers," they overlooked both the current stage of organ growth and the speed at which the process was advancing.

In the novel, there was information available on the status organogenesis. Perhaps not anything useful on the internet, but within medical literature there was sufficient to cause the Wall Streeters to reconsider their scheme before moving forward. Unfortunately for the Wall Streeters, no one thought to read the available litrature.

Why would they seek advice from the medical community? If you are betting a segment of the population (diabetics) will die at a relatively young age, it behooves you to know (a) what is killing these people and (b) what treatments are available to extend life.

Obviously, if the product was headlights, investigating medical issues would be of less importance. The type and depth of research will vary by product or service. (Any organizations ramping up to support CP/M systems? Not likely.)

ERM practitioners need to include futurists - or at least people with a curiosity of what's both possible and probable for all things that could interrupt "business as usual," including new developments by competitors - as well as Legal, HR, Finance, Production, Insurance, and too-many-other internal and external functions to list - to get a total view - yesterday, today, and tomorrow - of the threats facing an organization.

Futurists need to look not only at science and technology, the issue in the novel, but also politics (will the president order an attack and if so, when, how much, with what?), keeping in mind the organization's product (e.g., missiles, ships, MREs) and services (fleet maintenance, fuel, R&R).

Someone, and the ERM practitioner need not be that "someone" but the practitioner should press to assure there is a "someone," needs to look at threats that might be coming from all directions. Prioritizing the threats and implementing means to avoid or mitigate the threat normally remain management functions. However, failing to at least gaze into the crystal ball fails the due diligence test, just as the Wall Streeters failed to investigate issues that could impact their product.

I always stress the importance of keeping up with the news; reading physical and digital newspapers and magazines, particularly trade publications; I'll now add "books from the Local Lending Library" to the list.

A good yarn, with a good lesson for ERM practitioners as a bonus.


* Death Benefit, Dr. Robin Cook, ISBN-13: 978-1-4104-4494-3


If I wrote it, you may quote it.

Monday, August 19, 2013


Policies & Procedures

Create BEFORE need


Lack of relevant policies and procedures is likely to cost the University of Toledo Medical Center (UTMC) at least US$25,000.

According to Lawyers and, a 30-year veteran nurse at UTMC was terminated for failure to stop another nurse from removing items from the operating room before the procedure had concluded. The complaining nurse claims she was also fired for violating policies on communications and logging out.

The story is that the plaintiff was working in the operating room (OR) with another nurse.

The other nurse left the OR for lunch, but, according to the article, failed to log out of the hospital computer system. Returning from lunch the nurse allegedly disposed of a kidney that was waiting to be transplanted.

The plaintiff contends

  • that she had not witnessed the removal of the items and was unaware they had been removed after the other nurse had returned from her break, and
  • that the policies and procedures to prevent such incidents were implemented days after the fact

Could policies and procedures - P&Ps - have prevented the Case of the Disappearing Kidney?

By themselves, unlikely. The article suggests the other nurse violated P&Ps (to log out of the hospital computer system) so at least one person disregarded published policies and procedures. It is possible, but based on the article likely NOT the case, that there was a policy and procedure to identify organs to be discarded.

In addition to the dismissed nurse’s suit, UTMC also is being sued by the family of the person who was supposed to receive the donated kidney.

If, then, P&Ps by themselves are not enough, what can be done to assure they are followed.

As with most things ERM, training, training, and more training, coupled with management flag waving to convince all personnel the reasons for, and the importance of, policies and procedures.

Having effected staff review, and comment on, relevant policies and procedures at least annually enhances awareness while giving the personnel a feeling of ownership.


If I wrote it, you may quote it.

Friday, August 16, 2013


Know your neighbors


I’ve written it before.

I’m writing it again.

Know your neighbors.

Usually the admonishment comes with a suggestion to know what your neighbor does (is the product or service popular or not?), who your neighbor employs (popular or unpopular segments of the population), and how you neighbor treats its personnel (walkouts possible to probable?).

Turns out, according to an Associated Press article in the “” site titled

Salvation Army to be named in Philadelphia building collapse lawsuits

(see, that's not enough.

According to the brief article,

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Salvation Army will become the latest defendant in litigation over a deadly Philadelphia building collapse.

Six people died inside a Salvation Army thrift store when an adjacent building being demolished collapsed on them in June.

The suit contends that the Army ignored “known safety risks,” failed to implement protective measures and, due to the this, the Army thrift store customers died.

The army is the latest in the list of defendants.

Did the thrift store management know – have reason to believe – the adjacent building was to come down? Did the neighbors warn the store management? Was pre-demolition work obvious, giving the store management a “clue” of what was to transpire?

At the same time risk management practitioners are well advised to know what’s new with their neighbors, they also are equally well advised to be aware of any municipality activities that might interrupt business as usual.

Celebrations (that could close access roads)

Planned demolitions and construction.

Road work.

Sewer maintenance.

Water line maintenance.

The difference between “business continuity” and “enterprise risk management” in an awareness of what is going on outside the facility and being prepared to avoid or mitigate any threats from outside the facility.

The suit that included the Army thrift store alleges there was something the thrift store management could have done to avoid or mitigate the damage but, the suit contends, management failed to take appropriate measures to avoid or mitigate the threat.


If I wrote it, you may quote it.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Disease spreading
At speed of flight

Polio, not bird flu

Updated on 1 August 2013 at end of entry

Israel has recently reported several cases of polio.

Since Israel inoculates all children and new immigrants with anti-polio vaccine, the appearance of polio should tell risk management practitioners two things:

    One: In order to eradicate a contagious disease, the effort must be worldwide

    Two: Communicable diseases can – and are – spread at the speed of flight.

According to Israeli sources (, “The strain of polio virus recently discovered in southern Israel is exactly the same kind as the type of virus that is prevalent in Pakistan, and which existed exclusively in Pakistan until recently, reports the Pakistan-based publication Dawn.

“Dr. Nima Abid, a representative of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Pakistan, told Dawn that the virus was "definitely" from Pakistan, since “The virus genotype (genetic make-up) is the same as prevalent in Pakistan and this is what the research has indicated."

“The samples of the virus strain were found in sewage in Cairo, in December last year.

There had been no cases of polio in Egypt for five years previously, and the disease had been eradicated in Israel much before that, said the WHO official.”

Polio is not the only easily transmitted disease that requires international cooperation to eliminate.

Add to polio small pox and tuberculosis.

Although none is as “sexy” as bird flu, nor do they get the media attention; unlike bid flu, polio and small pox are preventable and TB can be mitigated through prophylaxis. (The TB vaccine is rarely used in the US although in countries bordering areas known for TB, the vaccine is routinely administered.)

The “bottom line” for risk management practitioners is three-pronged:

    One: Be aware of communicable diseases around the world, particularly where your services or products are used.

    Two: Push for policies and procedures that require employees, from Very Senior Executives to the lowest go-fer, to take advantage of all the available preventive medicines for any disease known to be in a destination country – and all stops in between.

    Three: Push for policies and procedures requiring all visitors who are from, or who recently have visited, countries known to host contagious diseases to prove they are protected from the contagious maladies.

A good place to start checking on what is going on in any particular country is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at The World Health Organization (WHO) page at also is helpful, but a bit more cumbersome in locating general country-specific information.

Because very few flights or cruises are non-stop, make certain to consider the possible intermediate stops. This will not provide 100 percent protection since many countries' foreigners-in-transit areas are shared with travelers from around the world.

The best protection is preventive medicine for all travelers and for those people at home who normally interact with foreign visitors.

The time between infection and the onset of symptoms may include the times the carrier is most contagious. The old saw, "An ounce of prevention" is true for all things risk management, and very true for preventive medicine.

Added 1 August 2013

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned Wednesday (31 July 2013) that there was a medium to high likelihood that the polio virus found in Israel will spread overseas. The organization also issued a stark travel advisory warning tourists to make sure they were properly vaccinated before visiting Israel.

The polio virus is found mostly in Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan and the Horn of Africa. The polio strain discovered in southern Israel several weeks ago is believed to be identical to the strain prevalent in Pakistan.

If I wrote it, you may quote it.