Wednesday, January 28, 2015


Risk management
Is a risky business



In a Wall Street Journal article heded New York-Area Officials Take Hit on Closing Roads, Trains the folks charged with the public's welfare are castigated by the media for figuratively yelling "the sky is falling" in predicting a super storm that would close roads and interrupt power.

While it DID dump snow measured in feet - not inches - elsewhere, the folks in Manhattan were spared everything but a slight inconvenience.

Not satisfied with escaping the storm that, again, dumped feet of snow on other communities in the northeast, Manhattanites whine that the risk management warnings and the related inconveniences were unnecessary.

AP photo via screen capture

The reaction is no surprise to most risk management professionals, and certainly not to emergency management types who work for communities along the Hurricane Coasts (Gulf and southeastern Atlantic coast states).

You can lead a horse to water . . .

I suppose it is human nature to "push back" against any recommendation that would cause us to DO something or to expend capital to take measures to mitigate a threat.

More than once in my risk management career I created Part 2 of a Risk Management Plan (Part 1 being defining with management exactly what is to be included) only to have management decide not to continue to Part 3, the mitigation/training/maintenance phase.

Recommendations based on Part 2 research are presented to management, usually with several options ranging from threat avoidance to efficient recovery suggestions.

Management wanted to know the threats and it wanted to know how to avoid or mitigate the threats, but it wasn't willing to DO anything based on the ostrich mentality: "It can't happen to me."

This mentality is as prevalent in government and non-profit organizations as it is in commercial and industrial organizations.

South Florida, where I hang my hat, is prone to hurricanes. Even though we have been spared any hurricanes for a number of years, installing hurricane shutters (or "bullet proof" glass) is a major selling point for both long-time residents and newcomers as well. (Fortunately, insurance companies - in an effort to protect their shareholders' earnings - insist that all structures meet relevant [to the construction date] building codes. Until Andrew many building codes were ignored; the Cat 5 storm changed that.)

South Floridians still tend to stock up on non-perishables during hurricane "season" but as time passes without any major storms, the population is becoming more complacent and lackadaisical about hurricane prep.

Am I surprised at the Manhattanites' whining? No.

Would I be surprised if the next time a storm is predicted many locals will ignore the warning? No.

Will I be surprised if a super storm DOES hit and the locals are forced to survive on peanut butter - sans jelly and bread - and then complain about the city's services? No and no again.

I don't know about the northeast, but I know that from Virginia - I once lived in Herndon and Norfolk VA - south, state and municipal governments make a serious effort to provide "How to survive a weather disaster" information.

But, to repeat myself, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink."

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