Thursday, June 20, 2013


Risks within risk


For want of a nail

The Atlantic hurricane season arrived June 1. The Pacific typhoon season arrived a little earlier and promptly sent a typhoon across Mexico.

Many organizations have “hurricane” plans. To my mind, that’s foolish. Any “threat specific” plan is, in my opinion, foolish.

The problem with a “hurricane” plan is that it can overlook a risk within a risk.

Consider a hurricane’s main components.



    Storm surge (flood).

Wind is, for the most part, harmless. True, it can blow the roof off a building and that can lead to other damages to a property. And true, it can bring down power lines.

A wind’s main threat potential is carrying missiles – anything it can pick up and hurl along at high velocity.

    Roof shingles.

    Tree limbs.


So, is “wind” a threat? Yes, but if the roof is to Dade County specs, the roof should survive.

Tree limbs and flying signs are a threat, but they often are ignored under the “hurricane” heading.

Rain is just water.

Of course water can damage equipment and walls; it can make a place uninhabitable.

Just like a burst pipe.

Or backed up storm drains.

Storm surge? Unless a facility is near a fairly large body of water – anything from the ocean to an oversized retention pond - there is little chance of damage from a storm surge. But it is a risk.

Now, take these risks on step farther.

Let’s assume - I know that’s foolish, but . . . - that the wind carries a large tree limb through the glass doors at the front of the building.

Let’s continue to assume that wind-driven rain saturates the building’s reception and office area.

Finally, let’s assume the rain backs up the storm sewers and water floods the production room floor.

    I once worked in a newspaper’s back shop. Water all too often backed up, making it “shockingly” dangerous to use an electric saw that was critical to our work. Chalk this up to a “been there/done that” scenario.

Now we’ll add an “inject” to the picture.

Roadways are impassable due to either or both debris or floods. The closed roads can be close to the homes of critical personnel or close to the facility. Either way, no one is coming in to work, and even if they could come to work, the facility is not suitable for office or production work.

By the way, that wind that blew the missile through the doors also blew all the organization’s papers, some sensitive, all over the neighborhood. Was a security breach included in the “hurricane” plan?

How much is it going to cost – in time and money – to clean up the mess? How many customers will find an alternative source? How long will it take to get your insurance company to pay off? All because of a “little” water.

Think in terms “For want of a nail . . . ”

Most of the aforementioned threats are easily enough mitigated, IF the threat is identified and IF management takes the threats seriously enough to spend the money and IF there are policies and procedures in place to lock down sensitive documents.

So far there has been zero discussion of keeping the organization operating until recovery to business as usual is accomplished. Almost 500 words and only now the word “recovery” appears.

How maintaining a minimum level of service while restoring to business as usual is established is your quandary. I know what I would recommend, but this organization is your client.

The point of this treatise is to encourage practitioners to consider the risks within a risk, and – maybe – to convince you that threat-specific plans are less than “best practice.”

One more quickie.


What are a few of the risks within the risk?

    Financial loss.

    Loss of use of a building.

    Loss of customers.

    Loss of key personnel.

    Loss of local manufacturing capability.

    Loss of vendors.


For Want of a Nail

    For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
    For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
    For want of a horse the rider was lost.
    For want of a rider the message was lost.
    For want of a message the battle was lost.
    For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
    And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

If I wrote it, you may quote it.

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