Column: Risk Management

Drop, Cover and Hold On

By: | December 14, 2017 • 3 min read
Joanna Makomaski is a specialist in innovative enterprise risk management methods and implementation techniques. She can be reached at [email protected]

This was my first earthquake. I was standing in my kitchen in Costa Rica on November 12 when it happened. The ground started to grumble. The dog barked.

The fridge began a hula dance. The house swayed back and forth intensely. My pool shot out plumes of water that travelled 20 feet.

I could not walk. I felt as though I was on a very tippy boat. I grabbed the counter and waited.

After the longest 30 seconds of my life, the house stopped swaying. For a grand finale, I heard the last gasps of power shutting down. It got pitch dark. No appliances. No TV. No internet. No cell service. No landline. I was in a blackout on all levels.

I could not see, and I did not know what was going to happen next. Would there be a tsunami? Would there be aftershocks? I decided to stay inside and wait.

When a neighbor heard I stayed inside, I was severely scolded and mocked. “You are a risk manager. You should know; you must get out of the house during the earthquake. Right?”

Within a half hour, things seemed to calm down. My dear neighbor drove up to the house — a beautiful sight, our beach community checking in on each other. We soon learned it was a 6.9-magnitude earthquake as measured at the Universidad Nacional Costa Rica. As it turned out our homes sat right atop the epicenter.


We gathered as neighbors to relive our individual experiences. When a neighbor heard I stayed inside, I was severely scolded and mocked. “You are a risk manager. You should know; you must get out of the house during the earthquake. Right?”

In truth, I was not completely sure. One hears so many versions of what one should do. I never realized how many renditions of escape plans exist. The confusion only compounded as I listened to my overly excited neighbors argue about who pushed who out of the way to get out of the house first.

This story ended well for our community. No damages. No injuries. No threat of a tsunami.

But as a curious risk manager, I decided to take stock and research this issue and finally settle the score. What to do during an earthquake? What is the appropriate risk mitigation for dealing with quakes?

According to the website of the Department of Homeland Security (, if you are inside, you are to drop down onto your hands and knees, cover your head and neck with your arms to protect yourself from falling debris and hold on to any sturdy covering until the shaking stops.

You are not to run outside or get in a doorway. In short you “Drop, Cover and Hold on.” Prepare the same way for aftershocks.

Practicing the drop, cover and hold on procedure is essential. Next is having an earthquake kit at your home or business. Make sure you have a fire extinguisher, a first aid kit, a battery-powered radio, a flashlight and extra batteries. I would add to this list a phone: An old fashioned analog phone that does not need a power connection.

So, when I look back at my instinct to stay put, it all makes sense now. Drop, cover, hold on. &

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Management

The Profession

As a professor of business, Jack Hampton knows firsthand the positive impact education has on risk managers as they tackle growing risks.
By: | April 9, 2018 • 4 min read

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

Ellen Thrower, president (retired), The College of Insurance, introduced me to the importance of insurance as a component of risk management. Further, she encouraged me to explore strategic and operational risk as foundation topics shaping the role of the modern risk manager.

Chris Mandel, former president of RIMS and Risk Manager of the Year, introduced me to the emerging area of enterprise risk management. He helped me recognize the need to align hazard, strategic, operational and financial risk into a single framework. He gave me the perspective of ERM in a high-tech environment, using USAA as a model program that later won an excellence award for innovation.

Bob Morrell, founder and former CEO of Riskonnect, showed me how technology could be applied to solving serious risk management and governance problems. He created a platform that made some of my ideas practical and extended them into a highly-successful enterprise that served risk and governance management needs of major corporations.

R&I: How did you come to work in this industry?


From a background in corporate finance and commercial banking, I accepted the position of provost of The College of Insurance. Recognizing my limited prior knowledge in the field, I became a student of insurance and risk management leading to authorship of books on hazard and financial risk. This led to industry consulting, as well as to the development of graduate-level courses and concentrations in MBA programs.

R&I: What was your first job?

The provost position was the first job I had in the industry, after serving as dean of the Seton Hall University School of Business and founding The Princeton Consulting Group. Earlier positions were in business development with Marine Transport Lines, consulting in commercial banking and college professorships.

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

Creating a risk management concentration in the MBA program at Saint Peter’s, co-founding the Russian Risk Management Society (RUSRISK), and writing “Fundamentals of Enterprise Risk Management” and the “AMA Handbook of Financial Risk Management.”

A few years ago, I expanded into risk management in higher education. From 2017 into 2018, Rowman and Littlefield published my four books that address risks facing colleges and universities, professors, students and parents.

Jack Hampton, Professor of Business, St. Peter’s University

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

The Godfather. I see it as a story of managing risk, even as the behavior of its leading characters create risk for others.

R&I: What is your favorite drink?

Jameson’s Irish whiskey. Mixed with a little ice, it is a serious rival for Johnny Walker Gold scotch and Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey.

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

Mount Etna, Taormina, and Agrigento, Sicily. I actually supervised an MBA program in Siracusa and learned about risk from a new perspective.

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


Army Airborne training and jumping out of an airplane. Fortunately, I never had to do it in combat even though I served in Vietnam.

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

George C. Marshall, one of the most decorated military leaders in American history, architect of the economic recovery program for Europe after World War II, and recipient of the 1953 Nobel Peace Prize. For Marshall, it was not just about winning the war. It was also about winning the peace.

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

Sharing lessons with colleagues and students by writing, publishing and teaching. A professor with a knowledge of risk management does not only share lessons. The professor is also a student when MBA candidates talk about the risks they manage every day.

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

Sensitizing for-profit, nonprofit and governmental agencies to the exposures and complexities facing their organizations. Sometimes we focus too much on strategies that sound good but do not withstand closer examination. Risk managers help organizations make better decisions.

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


Developing executive training programs to help risk managers assume C-suite positions in organizations. Insurance may be a good place to start but so is an MBA degree. The Risk and Insurance Management Society recognizes the importance of a wide range of risk knowledge. Colleges and universities need to catch up with RIMS.

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

Cyber risk and its impact on hazard, operational and financial strategies. A terrorist can take down a building. A cyber-criminal can take down much more.

R&I: What does your family think you do?

My family members think I’m a professor. They do not seem to be too interested in my views on risk management.

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