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.

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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.

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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

After 20 years in the business, Navy Pier’s Director of Risk Management values her relationships in the industry more than ever.
By: | June 1, 2017 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

Working at Dominick’s Finer Foods bagging groceries. Shortly after I was hired, I was promoted to [cashier] and then to a management position. It taught me great responsibility and it helped me develop the leadership skills I still carry today.

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

While working for Hyatt Regency McCormick Place Hotel, one of my responsibilities was to oversee the administration of claims. This led to a business relationship with the director of risk management of the organization who actually owned the property. Ultimately, a position became available in her department and the rest is history.

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

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The risk management community is doing a phenomenal job in professional development and creating great opportunities for risk managers to network. The development of relationships in this industry is vitally important and by providing opportunities for risk managers to come together and speak about their experiences and challenges is what enables many of us to be able to do our jobs even more effectively.

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

Attracting, educating and retaining young talent. There is this preconceived notion that the insurance industry and risk management are boring and there could be nothing further from the truth.

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

In my 20 years in the industry, the biggest change in risk management and the insurance industry are the various types of risk we look to insure against. Many risks that exist today were not even on our radar 20 years ago.

Gina Kirchner, director of risk management, Navy Pier Inc.

R&I: What insurance carrier do you have the highest opinion of?

FM Global. They have been our property carrier for a great number of years and in my opinion are the best in the business.

R&I: Are you optimistic about the US economy or pessimistic and why?

I am optimistic that policies will be put in place with the new administration that will be good for the economy and business.

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

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The commercial risks that are of most concern to me are cyber risks, business interruption, and any form of a health epidemic on a global scale. We are dealing with new exposures and new risks that we are truly not ready for.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

My mother has played a significant role in shaping my ideals and values. She truly instilled a very strong work ethic in me. However, there are many men and women in business who have mentored me and have had a significant impact on me and my career as well.

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

I am most proud of making the decision a couple of years ago to return to school and obtain my [MBA]. It took a lot of prayer, dedication and determination to accomplish this while still working a full time job, being involved in my church, studying abroad and maintaining a household.

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

“Heaven Is For Real” by Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent. I loved the book and the movie.

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

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A French restaurant in Paris, France named Les Noces de Jeannette Restaurant à Paris. It was the most amazing food and brings back such great memories.

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

Israel. My husband and I just returned a few days ago and spent time in Jerusalem, Nazareth, Jericho and Jordan. It was an absolutely amazing experience. We did everything from riding camels to taking boat rides on the Sea of Galilee to attending concerts sitting on the Temple steps. The trip was absolutely life changing.

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

Many, many years ago … I went parasailing in the Caribbean. I had a great experience and didn’t think about the risk at the time because I was young, single and free. Looking back, I don’t know that I would make the same decision today.

R&I: What about this work do you find the most fulfilling or rewarding?

I would have to say the relationships and partnerships I have developed with insurance carriers, brokers and other professionals in the industry. To have wonderful working relationships with such a vast array of talented individuals who are so knowledgeable and to have some of those relationships develop into true friendships is very rewarding.

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

My friends and family have a general idea that my position involves claims and insurance. However, I don’t think they fully understand the magnitude of my responsibilities and the direct impact it has on my organization, which experiences more than 9 million visitors a year.




Katie Siegel is a staff writer at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]