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

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Risk Management

The Profession

Verizon’s risk manager David Cammarata loves when his team can make a real impact on the bottom line.
By: | May 2, 2017 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

I was a financial analyst with the N.J. Casino Control Commission.

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

I was told at a Christmas luncheon in 2003 that I was being promoted into a new job.

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

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I think the risk management community is getting a lot better at utilizing big data and analytics to manage risk. Significant improvements have been made, but there is still much more room for improvement.

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

I think that the insurance and brokerage communities need to really start thinking about what this industry is going to look like in 10 years. They need to start addressing how they are going to remain relevant. I think that major disruptions to existing business models will occur and that these disruptions combined with innovation and technological advances may catch many of today’s industry leaders by surprise.

David Cammarata, assistant treasurer, risk management and insurance, Verizon Communications Inc.

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

San Diego, any year.

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

I think the advent of cyber risk and cyber insurance. For several years it has been, and it continues to be, the main topic of discussion at industry meetings.

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

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I think the most scary scenarios include a nuclear, biological, chemical or radiological event, a widespread global health epidemic and/or a widespread state sponsored cyber shutdown.

R&I: How much business do you do direct versus going through a broker?

We do almost all of our business through a broker.

R&I: Is the contingent commission controversy overblown?

No. It’s a conflict.

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

Optimistic because hopefully President Trump’s policies (lower taxes and less regulation) will be pro-business and good for the economy.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

My dad, who passed away many years ago. He was very influential during the formative years of my career. He taught me how important integrity and reputation were to your brand and he had a very strong work ethic.

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

I would have to say raising two awesome kids. My daughter is graduating from James Madison University this year as co-valedictorian. My son is finishing his sophomore year at Rutgers and has near perfect grades. But more importantly, both of my kids have turned out to be really good people.

R&I: How many emails do you get in a day?

A lot.

“I love it when the risk management organization is able to contribute in a way that makes a real impact to the corporation’s overall objectives. On several occasions we have been able to make real contributions to the bottom line.”

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

“My Cousin Vinny.” That movie makes me laugh no matter how many times I watch it.

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

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My dad used to take me to a place called Chick & Nello’s. It was an Italian place that did not have a menu. They came to your table and told you the two or three items they were making that day. The food was out of this world.

R&I: What is your favorite drink?

Iced tea. The non-alcoholic kind.

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

I can think of several places but for me it would be a tie between India and Italy. India just has such a different culture and way of life and Rome has breathtaking historical sites.

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

Well, one of the best thrill rides I’ve been on was Kingda Ka at Great Adventure. It feels risky but probably isn’t all that risky. I flew in a prop plane with my brother-in-law one time … that felt kind of risky. I have also parasailed, does that count? I think it definitely has to be driving on the N.J. Turnpike day in and day out.

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

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What about the Fukushima 50? I don’t think I could have done what they did.

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

I love it when the risk management organization is able to contribute in a way that makes a real impact to the corporation’s overall objectives. On several occasions we have been able to make real contributions to the bottom line.

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

I don’t think they really know. My children see me as dad; others just see me as an executive with Verizon.




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