Risk Insider: Jack Hampton

The Atlanta Highway Collapse

By: | April 3, 2017 • 3 min read
John (Jack) Hampton is a Professor of Business at St. Peter’s University and a former Executive Director of the Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS). His recent book deals with risk management in higher education: "Culture, Intricacies, and Obsessions in Higher Education — Why Colleges and Universities are Struggling to Deliver the Goods." His website is www.jackhampton.com.

On March 31st, a massive fire caused an interstate bridge in Atlanta to collapse during rush hour. No one was hurt even as towering flames and plumes of smoke were visible for more than an hour. Interstate I-85, a daily commuting artery for a quarter of a million people, was closed indefinitely.


It’s wartime in Atlanta. Within 24 hours, the federal government released $10 million for immediate use and promised much more to repair the overpass. 2017 will be a nightmare for Atlanta motorists. A few years from now, the collapse will be a distant memory.

The situation recalls historical behaviors of Dwight D. Eisenhower and George S. Patton. They offer a lesson for contemporary events in American life.

Eisenhower was a peacetime warrior. To win the Second World War, America needed to transport the output of U.S. industry across the Atlantic Ocean. This was a logistical challenge.

Is our crumbling infrastructure a wartime or peacetime challenge? In today’s political climate, no one seems to be seriously seeking an answer to this question.

Patton was a wartime commander. He fought until he ran out of tanks, ammo and gasoline, and then still wanted his men to fight on. To win a war with Patton: arm him, point him toward Germany, and stand back.

Eisenhower famously was quoted multiple times on how we can achieve goals. In a 1957 speech he said, “plans are nothing, budgets are nothing, but planning and flexible budgeting are everything.”

Eisenhower was perfect when peacetime behavior was needed. He carefully planned the invasion of Normandy, a colossal logistical operation.

After being resupplied by Eisenhower, Patton pushed his troops to drive the enemy out of North Africa, Sicily and France. He exhibited wartime behavior.

When planning was the key, peacetime decision-making did the job. When no-nonsense action was needed, a wartime approach was the choice.

Back to the present. In wartime, conditions are always intense, competition is stiff and action trumps planning. Peacetime seeks plans, accuracy and strategies. Many of our political problems today occur because we cannot muster action in peacetime environments.

In the spirit of Eisenhower and Patton, the Atlanta incident has broader ramifications. Fire is not the only thing that takes down transportation routes.

In 2007, an eight-lane I-35W Mississippi River bridge in Minneapolis, collapsed during the evening rush hour, killing 13 people and injuring 145. It was carrying 140,000 vehicles daily. The incident produced no visible response to a broader problem.

Ten years later, there are still 56,000 structurally deficient U.S. bridges crossed daily by 185 million vehicles. Almost 2,000 of them are part of the Interstate Highway System.

Is our crumbling infrastructure a wartime or peacetime challenge? In today’s political climate, no one seems to be seriously seeking an answer to this question.


Let’s answer it. We are a nation struggling to distinguish between wartime and peacetime. Problems that should have been solved long ago became explosive issues that drown out compromise. Post-election behavior by both parties has not been pretty.

Maybe the Atlanta misfortune can spark a badly needed discussion in Washington, D.C. If we start today, a crumbling infrastructure can be a peacetime issue. Everybody wants jobs, better roads and shorter commutes. Wouldn’t it be a blessing if the two political parties develop a plan to repair failing bridges and poorly maintained roadways?

The Interstate Highway System was authorized by President Eisenhower and is named after him. We should demand a bipartisan effort to fix it and the other infrastructure catastrophes waiting to happen.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Management

The Profession

Janet Sheiner, VP of risk management and real estate at AMN Healthcare Services Inc., sees innovation as an answer to fast-evolving and emerging risks.
By: | March 5, 2018 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

As a kid, bagging groceries. My first job out of school, part-time temp secretary.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?

Risk management picks you; you don’t necessarily pick it. I came into it from a regulatory compliance angle. There’s a natural evolution because a lot of your compliance activities also have the effect of managing your risk.

R&I: What is the risk management community doing right?


There’s much benefit to grounding strategic planning in an ERM framework. That’s a great innovation in the industry, to have more emphasis on ERM. I also think that risk management thought leaders are casting themselves more as enablers of business, not deterrents, a move in the right direction.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?

Justified or not, risk management functions are often viewed as the “Department of No.” We’ve worked hard to cultivate a reputation as the “Department of Maybe,” so partners across the organization see us as business enablers. That reputation has meant entertaining some pretty crazy ideas, but our willingness to try and find a way to “yes” tempered with good risk management has made all the difference.

Janet Sheiner, VP, Risk Management & Real Estate, AMN Healthcare Services Inc.

R&I: What was the best location and year for the RIMS conference and why?

San Diego, of course!  America’s Finest City has the infrastructure, Convention Center, hotels, airport and public transportation — plus you can’t beat our great weather! The restaurant scene is great, not to mention those beautiful coastal views.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?

The emergence of risk management as a distinct profession, with four-year degree programs and specific academic curriculum. Now I have people on my team who say their goal is to be a risk manager. I said before that risk management picks you, but we’re getting to a point where people pick it.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?


The commercial insurance market’s ability to innovate to meet customer demand. Businesses need to innovate to stay relevant, and the commercial market needs to innovate with us.  Carriers have to be willing to take on more risk and potentially take a loss to meet the unique and evolving risks companies are facing.

R&I: Of which insurance carrier do you have the highest opinion?

Beazley. They have been an outstanding partner to AMN. They are responsive, flexible and reasonable.  They have evolved with us. They have an appreciation for risk management practices we’ve organically woven into our business, and by extension, this makes them more comfortable with taking on new risks with us.

R&I: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the U.S. health care industry and why?

I am very optimistic about the health care industry. We have an aging population with burgeoning health care needs, coupled with a decreasing supply of health care providers — that means we have to get smarter about how we manage health care. There’s a lot of opportunity for thought leaders to fill that gap.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

Professionally, AMN Healthcare General Counsel, Denise Jackson, has enabled me to do the best work I’ve ever done, and better than I thought I could do.  Personally, my husband Andrew, a second-grade teacher, who has a way of putting things into a human perspective.

R&I: What have you accomplished that you are proudest of?

In my early 20s, I set a goal for the “corner office.” I achieved that when I became vice president.  I received a ‘Values in Practice’ award for trust at AMN. The nomination came from team members I work with every day, and I was incredibly humbled and honored.

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?

The noir genre, so anything by Raymond Chandler in books. For movies,  “Double Indemnity,” the 1944 Billy Wilder classic, with insurance at the heart of it!

R&I: What is your favorite drink?


Clean water. Check out Water.org for how to help people enjoy clean, safe water.

R&I: What’s the best restaurant at which you’ve eaten?

Liqun Roast Duck Restaurant in Beijing.

R&I: What is the most unusual/interesting place you have ever visited?

China. See favorite restaurant above. This restaurant had been open for 100 years in that location. It didn’t exactly have an “A” rating, and it was probably not a place most risk managers would go to.

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in?

Eating that duck at Liqun!

R&I: If the world has a modern hero, who is it and why?

Dr. Seuss who, in response to a 1954 report in Life magazine, worked to reduce illiteracy among school children by making children’s books more interesting. His work continues to educate and entertain children worldwide.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?

They’re not really sure!

Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]