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.

Sunday, July 21, 2013


Finding flood zones

The Community Association manager where I reside recently sent out an email that warned of neighborhood flooding and noted that the city was making sandbags available.

Having grown up in the area, I am aware of flooding so before buying the manse I checked its relationship to the flood plain. (Anyone who has followed my thoughts for awhile knows I make checking environmental history part of risk management, especially when buying land.)

I challenged the paid-by-the-residents Association manager to tell us WHERE she got her information or where we could find it ourselves.

She failed or was unable to rise to the challenge.

After a week of no response from the paid-by-the-residents Association manager, I revisited the WWW to confirm my property still was outside the flood zone (FEMA recently revised its zoning program). I’m outside the zone.

My city’s Web site had a link to an excellent flood map, but it pays for the service from ArcGIS. If your community lacks similar mapping, try FEMA’s free map service at - plug in some location information and, if FEMA has a map of the area, you’ll soon have flood plain information.

For the record, FEMA lacks a flood map for Phoenix AZ, although flooding can be a problem for parts of the city.

If the community of interest lacks a flood map and if FEMA has yet to post a flood map for the community, check with the local planning and zoning offices. Also check the local lending library and the historical society (if any) for the community’s history.

Thanks to my city putting my tax dollars to work, I was able to zoom in to a Google Maps view of my property and a pop-up of the related flood zone information. A slightly edited pop-up display is shown below.

The information is out there. All a risk management practitioner has to do is search for it. Anything less is failing to do the job.

Thursday, July 11, 2013


It’s all in your head


Or is it?


According to, Australia’s courts seem to be spending a lot of time considering “psychiatric harm” in the workplace.

While these concerns seem primarily based on conditions “Down Under,” risk management practitioners should be aware that the issue can become global and effect their clients. Similar cases may be coming to a courtroom near you.

In one case, the court ruled that “Employers not necessarily liable for psychiatric harm to employees who are stressed or overworked” ( In separate decisions, two employees who sustained psychiatric injuries in the course of their employment in Victoria were denied damages in recent decisions of the Supreme Court of Victoria and the Victorian Court of Appeal.

In another case, “Law firm successfully defends against claim of bullying” (, the court decided that an employee who experienced an overwhelming workload, professional and personal pressure, conflict and a strained relationship with a colleague was found not to have been bullied.

Interestingly, all cases were heard in the same Australian state, Victoria.

In the liability for psychiatric harm case, the court determined that an employee claiming psychiatric harm in the course of employment needs to prove the employer was provided with a medical certificate or told that a doctor had been consulted because the employment was adversely affecting the employee's mental health.

In the bullying case, the court admonished employers to carefully manage workload shifts associated with maternity leave. This decision highlights the need for employers to ensure that policies and procedures are implemented to manage workflow and to ensure that appropriate resources are allocated to assist a returning staff member to transition back into the workplace after an absence.

While the Australian courts’ decisions impact only operations in Australia, the issues raised in these cases should give practitioners pause and have them consider working closely with in-house and retained legal advisers to develop policies and procedures to at least mitigate the potential for similar legal action against the organizations that engage us.

The bottom line is simple: It is expensive to do battle in the courts. Even if the organization prevails, it still loses. Besides financial loss, there can be production loss, customer good will loss, and personnel misgivings regarding how the organization treats its staff.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


Emergency managers
Fall into “scenario” trap


There is a young lady carousing in the Caribbean with designs on south Florida.

Turn on the tv and you hear the name “Chantal.” Once named, the tv news readers tell us we are advised to get our hurricane preparations underway.

Turn on the radio and you hear the same thing.

Pick up a newspaper – yes, there still are newspapers in south Florida – and you not only are encouraged with hurricane preparations but you also get a hurricane tracking map.

‘Course you also can get a tracking map at the local, almost ubiquitous, Publix market.

Crackers, and this scrivener is at least a “semi-Cracker,” consider a lot of the urgency expressed by the tv weather boys and girls to be a bit much. How the visitors take the constant admonishments is beyond my ken.

The problem is that the copy writers are focusing on one threat package – hurricane – and they should be marketing NOT “hurricane prep” but “threat prep.”

Hurricane preparation is actually pretty basic.

  1. Batteries for flashlights, radios, tv, and miscellaneous other devices
  2. Books – make friends with Local Lending Library – to pass the time
  3. Candles that are big enough and thick enough to stay lit for awhile; wicked lamps with a bottle or two of “lamp oil” and something to light the fire – matches, barbeque starter
  4. Car chargers for cell phones and other “charge in the car” devices
  5. Fluids, a gallon or two of bottled H2O for drinking (bathtubs and sinks can be filled as the storm nears for limited bathing and toilet flushing)
  6. Fuel in the car(s)
  7. Medicines, both OTC and prescription, to last at least 72 hours
  8. Non-perishable food and a manual can opener
  9. Ready cash
  10. Suitcase(s) with sufficient clothing for several days
  11. Telephone – the POTS type that connects to the wall jack and requires no connection to AC power
Finally, if the house has hurricane shutters make certain they easily can be closed/lowered.

With the exception of checking the hurricane shutters, ALL of the items on the list can be used for other events or times.

    Fire: Items 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 Flood: Items 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 (until the house dries out) Power outage: Items 1, 3, 4, 11

What’s nice about most of the “hurricane” supplies, beside the fact they can be used for other events, is that they can be used any non-event time that the stock can be replenished in a day or two.

Canned tuna – toss in some mayo, chop up some veggies, and maybe add a small Red Savina Habanero or milder Scotch Bonnet – they look alike – to spice up the concoction. You might need some bread handy; pitas are good and stay fresh for a while without refrigeration.

Emergency Managers need to take a broader view

Telling people that what they squirrel away for a very rainy and windy day ALSO is handy for other days.

Candles can lend a romantic light to an evening meal of cold chicken and a couple of veggies served with a room-temperature suitable wine.

By the way, pre-cooking foods, such as the chicken, always is a good idea. Ordering pizza for the freezer (or make your own) can add another menu item. A barbeque. From a simple charcoal hibachi to a monster multi-burner rig with all the bells and whistles, is handy to have and, like most other “hurricane prep” items can be used at other times of the year. Just be sure to use charcoal in a well-ventilated area.

Theonly “hurricane prep” I do is

  1. check the storm shutters at the beginning of the season
  2. turn down the thermostat on the refrigerator and freezer and stuff as much frozen food into the freezer as possible when the storm is 24 hours away
  3. fill bathtubs and sinks with water when the storm is 12 hours away
Everything else on the list – and a few more things that are not – are always on hand.

If I wrote it, you may quote it.

Monday, July 8, 2013


Always wear
     Clean underwear


If a risk management practitioner needs a motto over his or her office door to observe on the practitioner’s way out, it should be:

Always wear clean underwear

Now at first blush you may think this scrivener has lost it. While that is generally debatable, I assure you in this instance I am fully in charge of all my facilities.

What is it we – risk management practitioners – do? Bottom line?

We anticipate and plan for the unexpected.

No, I’m not talking about swans of any hue; I don’t believe in black swans as an event that could not be predicted.

I’m talking about the unexpected event; the proverbial car going out of control and striking someone, the ride in the ambulance to the hospital where the injured person is stripped of all clothing, including unmentionables, and clothed in a no couture open-back gown.

    In polite society no one would mention that even if the victim of such an accident started the day with clean skivvies, they probably would not be that way when removed at the hospital. Still, “it’s the thought that counts” in the admonishment.

Looking for threats

Fact: You can’t prepare for a threat if you don’t anticipate the threat’s probability.

Where can threats be found? Let’s start with


    Competition: What has the competition done – new products, pricing, marketing

    Environment: What are the environmental threats? Tsunamis in the desert, snow storm in south Florida? What about neighbors. What do the neighbors do/make/sell? How if the neighbor perceived by the public, its employees?

    Government: Laws, regulations, taxation, liabilities.

    Labor: Work actions, availability of casual staff and contractors; tools required and available, education and training, work authorizations if multi-national.

    Standards: Local, industry, international



    Alternate vendors: If the primary vendor for any particular product fails, is there an alternate source; are arrangements in place to buy from that vendor?

    Financial: Are lenders, creditors financially strong; will they be there when needed?

    Food: Is there sufficient food to sustain staff if a shelter-in-place situation presents itself? Consider diabetics and other special diet requirements; poll the people.

    Insurance: Does the business have enough of the correct type insurance? Too much? Have the policies been reviewed by an independent expert? Does management understand the policies’ requirements (e.g., for documentation).

    Transportation: Getting raw materials from vendors; getting product or services to customers; access to the job site, marketing site.

    Vendors' vendors: Consider the vendor’s risk management plan. Is there a plan? Has the customer vetted at least a “sanitized” plan?


    Communications: Secure? Multiple demarcation points? Multiple vendors? Multiple methods (landline, cell, two-way radio, courier, T-n for Internet connectivity)?

    IT: Data protected, tested, and accessible within time limitations? Low MTBF parts on hand, repair tools and documentation available? (Also see Labor under the History heading.)


    Awareness: Management needs to be aware of risk management; what it can do for the organization; how, unlike insurance, it can bring financial, marketing, and PR (among other) benefits to the organization. Management must realize risk management must be an on-going program. not a one-time project,

    Participation in risk management processes: Understanding the role of management in all phases of risk management and a willingness to perform tasks for which they are best suited by position and personality.

    Policies and procedures: Signing off on risk management-related policies and procedures that impact all personnel at all times.

    Support for risk management: Top down flag-waving support by senior management is required for a successful risk management program.

“Always wear clean underwear” may seem a silly, frivolous remark, but put into a risk management perspective, it takes on new meaning and makes a great deal of sense.

If I wrote it, you may quote it.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

LinkedIn to LinkedOut


I’m on LinkedIn.

I even started a group on LinkedIn – the Business Continuity – COOP group for business continuity/COOP practitioners from tyros to know-it-alls. (I have yet to meet a real “know-it-all” but there are a few who think they know it all.)

When I joined LinkedIn several years ago it was pretty clean. It also was fairly straight forward to navigate.

Since joining, LinkedIn has brought on more advertisers and changed its User Interface, the “UI.”

It also, I suppose in an effort to boost membership, introduced something called “Recommendations.”

Recommendations are what I term “pseudo-references.” (LinkedIn still accommodates real references, but they get little play with the advent of Recommendations.)

I have many more recommendations than people I know who are qualified to recommend me for anything.

I have recommendations for areas in which I have zero, nada, no, אפס expertise.

LinkedIn, in my opinion, is cheapening itself. Maybe it’s playing to a different audience that the one it sought when I joined.

It’s raison d’etre as a professional-social network (socially professional or professionally social?) remains intact, but the way I see it is evolving away from the professionalism it once suggested.

I’m starting to ask myself if I want to continue with LinkedIn. I joined it to exchange thoughts with other practitioners and, perhaps, to mentor tyros. It was the same with DRJ’s web site until it shifted its main effort to its LinkedIn group.

If I quit LinkedIn I’ll miss some exchanges with a few selected fellow practitioners, but they have my email and they can contact me directly to figuratively kick ideas about. As for mentoring, this blog can serve as the venue for that. My e-address is on the blog page (top right if you care to look) and my in-box always is open. Cluttered, perhaps, but always able to hold one more incoming post.

Maybe I’m just not a sufficiently social animal. Professional, without a doubt. And certainly not anti-social, but maybe just not social enough. I confess to being a curmudgeon, but of late I’ve managed to refrain from making any scathing remarks on a LinkedIn group when someone asks a question already answered, usually several times. (”How far must a recovery site be located from the primary site?” or “How often must the plan be exercised?” or “Does anyone have a plan they can share for a ZYX scenario {flood, fire, tsunami, mass suicide by the board of directors}?”)

    By the way, if you want answers to those questions:
    How far: Depends.
    When to exercise: When anything changes.
    ZYX plan: Yes and No: (a) plans should not be threat specific, (b) my plans contain proprietary information, (c) my plan is for my organization and won’t work with yours.

Back in the day when I was a technical writer and had to learn HTML code on the fly, I reached out to the tech pubs world for information on how to create an HTML table.

I had read how to do it and I really tried to make it work, but to no avail. So I asked the experts. A gentleman from Poland provided not only the answer but a sample. That convinced me that professional networking was worthwhile.

Over the years, I’ve tried to “pay” for the assistance by assisting others without regard to anything other than the person’s desire to know something.

(There are no “stupid questions,” but I believe there ARE “stupid people asking questions.” “Stupid” may be the wrong word; certainly “lazy” is appropriate. Perhaps society considers having someone else do its job is merely “entitlement,” a mentality that sadly seems to be spreading.)

In any event, while this may not be my swan song – black, white, or any other color swan – from LinkedIn, it forces me to realize my days on the network probably are numbered.

Bottom line: If you have a question and you failed to find a satisfying answer from your colleagues and by searching the WWW, feel free to contact me. I will respond, albeit I won’t guarantee the tone of the response.


No plan for planes

Catching up on the news Sunday morning I learn that a plane crash at San Francisco’s airport (SFO) caused cancelled flights across the country.

I live close to two major airports: Hollywood/Fort Lauderdale (FLL) and Miami (MIA).

The local tv stations sent people to interview stranded travelers, asking what they were going to do until flights to SFO resumed.

Not one traveler – not one – planned to do anything other than “hunker down” either at the south Florida airport or at a nearby lodging.

If I had been booked on an SFO-bound flight I would be talking to the airline’s representatives to get a flight to LA or Seattle.

Ahh, but that’s not San Francisco.

BUT, there are planes to Oakland and San Jose ( ground transportation can be arranged from both places to The City – West.

There are trains from LA and Seattle. The Amtrak train from LA leaves from LAX, the main airport. There is a Caltrain from San Jose’s SJC airport into San Francisco ( and many options for the short hop from Oakland to The City..

The airport at Oakland, across the bay from The City, hosts a number of airlines that fly from south Florida, including Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit, and US Air.

There are a number of airlines offering flights into SJC, including flights from south Florida with American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, United, US Air, and Virgin America.

The flights into both Oakland and San Jose probably will be “via” someplace else with longer runways, but at least there are options.

All the above was discovered using Dogpile searches; Google would have worked as well.

Granted, those of us who are so primitive we don’t have smart phones and data plans would have to pay to access Wi-Fi at MIA (it’s free at FLL), but the information is readily available.

The airlines (are supposed to) have alternate destinations in the event the primary destination – in this case, San Francisco – cannot accommodate the flight.

The flight crews (are supposed to) a list of alternate airports that can accommodate their aircraft in its current configuration (landing and gate requirements).

In the “old days” airlines were more accommodating; they valued their customers and treasured repeat business and word-of-mouth advertising; the airlines actually worked with the passengers to get them to their destinations safely and on time.

Business travelers need to know their options before booking a flight. What is the airline willing to do if something “goes boom in the night” as it did at SFO. Will the airline make arrangements to get the passenger to an alternate nearby airport (OAK, SJC)? Will there be an extra charge? Closing an airport is not something the airline can control, but the situation at SFO was not an “act of God” that lets the airline out of its contract obligation to deliver passengers to their destination on time.

Business travelers, causal travelers as well, especially if connecting flights are involved, need to know their options well in advance so that if something interrupts their plans, an alternate plan is already at hand.

Flight interruptions never are “black swans.” They happen all too frequently for altogether too many reasons; they are a fact of life.

It’s simply Risk Management 101 – Have an alternate plan (better, alternate plans, plural).

If I wrote it, you may quote it.

Friday, July 5, 2013


Insurance won’t pay

The local news is reporting that illegal fireworks caused a fire that damaged more than a million dollars worth of boats.

Given the location, that probably is a conservative estimate; “several” millions might be more accurate.

It’s almost assured that the owner of the illegal fireworks will be identified.

Likewise, it almost is assured that the folks whose boats when up in flames will want to be compensated. If not the owners, than the owner’s insurance companies that paid on the boat owners’ claims.

The person who had the U>illegal fireworks is on the hook for the damages.

That person’s insurance won’t pay if – as most policies do – it included a statement that the insurance company is NOT liable for illegal actions.

The ERM-BC-COOP connection: If something goes awry and if there is anything that can be construed as “illegal,” and if the policy has the standard “if it’s illegal” opt out statement, the insurer may refuse to pay the claim.

The first type insurance that comes to mind if Board & Officer (B&O) coverage.

If the Board or Officers do something illegal and are taken to court, the insurer may refuse to pay to defend the people accused of the illegal activity. Alternatively, it might pay legal fees, but if the charged are found guilty, the insurer will sue to recover its money.

Reading, and publicizing an insurance policy’s “small print” might go a long way to reducing the temptation to so something that might be considered illegal. Having a policy in place that tells all personnel – from the board room to the mail room – that if any illegal action occurs, the perpetrators will have to pay any legal fees and penalties out of their own pockets might help prevent transgressions before they occur.

Illegal actions are just one of the reasons an insurer will refuse to pay.

If, for example, chemicals – even simple cleaning products – are improperly stored and this can be determined to have led to a mishap, the insurance company may balk at covering any damages.

Insurance companies should be considered as an ERM resource; their expertise based on experience is a valuable asset then ferreting out potential threats to “business as usual.”

Insurance adjusters also are an ERM resource; being independent, they can help translate insurance terminology and finely examine policy limitations.

If I wrote it, you may quote it.

Thursday, July 4, 2013


Flat pak shelters

An article in the Swedish version of The Local ( heded Refugee homes as 'easy as an Ikea bookshelf' describes how Swedish furniture giant Ikea's charitable foundation has joined forces with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to design and build flat-pack shelters for refugee families.

Some time ago this blog had entries on converting 20-foot and 40-foot cargo containers for use as shelters. To this scrivener’s mind, this still is an excellent use for containers that are stacked too-many-high at most sea ports. (Mobile homes, a/k/a “caravans,” “factory-built,” and “trailers” also are used for temporary and long-term shelter, but unlike cargo containers, about the largest “facility” such mobile units can provide is 24-by-60 feet; OK for a small classroom or clinic, but small even for a mobile hospital.)

The problems with using containers are several:

  1. They have to be converted for their future use (e.g., homes, hospitals, schools) meaning adding
    • Electricity
    • Plumbing
    • Insulation

  2. They have to be shipped to the disaster area; the best way to ship containers is on container ships which have two problems:

    • The ships are relatively slow and
    • The ships can’t deliver containers inland; ships and boats need waterways, not always available

The Ikea/UNHCR solution solves both of the container problems and may be more cost-effective than container conversion. The caveat: based on a video at The Local Web site (ibid), so far there is no way to expand a single dwelling to accommodate a common-use facility such as a school or hospital.

According to the article, The Ikea refugee shelters have been designed by a group of Swedish designers within the Refugee Housing Unit and are equipped with insulation and solar panels which provide enough electricity for lighting.

"Our goal is to revolutionize the refugee tent, or at least improve it," said Johan Karlsson of the Refugee Housing Unit in a film on the Ikea Foundation website.

In the accompanying video, Ikea engineers note that the housing units will be tweaked based on input from the refugees using the units.

"Quite frankly the tents have not much evolved over the years - they still rely on canvas, ropes and poles. They are hot during the summer and cold in winter," said Pierre Olivier Delarue of the UNHCR in the film.

Much of the temporary housing in refugee centres often has a life span of as little as six months and the typical white canvas style tent design has shown incapable of meeting the needs of refugees.

"On average a family will spend 12 years in a camp, so many children will grow up calling this shelter home," he added.

    A personal aside: I spend many summers in large Army surplus tents; they lasted much longer than 6 months, but required maintenance to patch leaks. It seemed that leaks happened faster than they could be patched. While there was screening and the tent flaps could be raised, inside still was stifling.

The UNHCR tents lack electricity and insulation. The Ikea units have a solar collector to power a provided electric light and they are insulated to keep heat out during the day and heat in at night.

"Quite frankly the tents have not much evolved over the years - they still rely on canvas, ropes and poles. They are hot during the summer and cold in winter," said Pierre Olivier Delarue of the UNHCR in the film.

"On average a family will spend 12 years in a camp, so many children will grow up calling this shelter home," UNHCR’s Delarue added.

In the video, two men are able to carry the flat-pack shelter – in its box – to a set up point. In addition to the shelter’s components, there also is a second container, light enough for one person to carry, containing metal poles and wires to support the structure. To raise the structure seems to be a three or four person task.

Unlike containers and mobile homes, refugees will need to be trained to set up the Ikea flat-pack units (unless UNHRC can hire hundreds of “builders” to quickly raise the roofs), but – based on the video – it seems assembling a unit can be accomplished with minimal, sho-n-tell training.

According to The Local, The refugee shelter project, into which the Ikea Foundation has poured some $4.5 million, remains at the prototype stage and the first batch of shelters are set to be tested by the UNHCR in a camp in Ethiopia.