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Risk Insider: Marilyn Rivers

Herding Cats

By: | May 9, 2016 • 2 min read
Marilyn Rivers is director of risk and safety for the City of Saratoga Springs. She chairs the PRIMA Institute for the Public Risk Management Association and was named Public Risk Manager of the Year by PRIMA in 2007. The views expressed in this article are those of the author, and not necessarily of the employer. She can be reached at [email protected]

The most enjoyable commercial I’ve ever seen is of a cowboy herding cats. It reminds me of the struggle public risk professionals face in emergency management programming.

Mention emergency management to civilians and you often get a blank stare straight through to oblivion. It’s as if the person is looking for the nearest exit, regardless of who may be standing in their way.

Emergency management planning is serious, though, for the public safety sector. It provides a comprehensive mechanism to fulfill government functions in the time of natural and man-made disasters.

Due diligence requires participation. Participation requires cat herding.

What seems simple and straightforward to emergency management personnel through education, training and table-top exercises often falls horribly short when funds or other resources are requested for that preparation.

We’ve all heard those budget folks at one time or another: “Why so negative? Let’s focus on the positive and not be Debbie Downer, shall we?”

“Hazard mitigation? Are you talking about my last golf game?”

“Are you sure it’s my responsibility? Seems like an awful lot of paperwork for something that may not happen … .”

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Let’s focus, folks. Risk professionals know that due diligence in the planning stages allows government to successfully mitigate impending disaster by utilizing known resources to their fullest potential. Due diligence requires participation. Participation requires cat herding.

I have found it’s best to discuss emergency management planning with your workforce in their terms.

For engineering, that means land surveys, water mitigation, facility management, and mechanical and electrical redundancies.

For public works: Think asphalt, sand, roadways and environmental management.

Finance thinks in budgets. Purchasing is equipment, supplies, energy and fuel. Human resources provides the people who move all the parts to make the whole.

Law, fire and emergency management personnel … well … let’s all think of them as the cowboys who try and keep us all on track in the event of our emergency.

The federal government does an admirable job putting together basic emergency management templates we may all use to communicate across this vast country during a time of need.

This basic programming provides step-by-step planning for a myriad of circumstances — identifying roles and responsibilities and provoking questions for each of us in order to best identify our roles as needed and to speak in one language as necessary.

It’s important to explain to local municipal officials that federal funding follows federal education, training, planning and preparation. The better prepared your community is, the more likely is its ability to best manage a disaster at its onset and during recovery.

Encourage the use of the universal language of the National Incident Management System. It might go a long way in providing useful dialogue for even the smallest of community disruptions, including your local parade, an electrical outage or a bad storm headed your way.

Encouraging independence, innovation and trust in the details will go a long way in managing your emergent situations.

Marilyn Rivers’ views are her own and don’t represent the City of Saratoga Springs.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

The Profession

Curt Gross

This director of risk management sees cyber, IP and reputation risks as evolving threats, but more formal education may make emerging risk professionals better prepared.
By: | June 1, 2018 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

My first non-professional job was working at Burger King in high school. I learned some valuable life lessons there.

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

After taking some accounting classes in high school, I originally thought I wanted to be an accountant. After working on a few Widgets Inc. projects in college, I figured out that wasn’t what I really wanted to do. Risk management found me. The rest is history. Looking back, I am pleased with how things worked out.

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

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I think we do a nice job on post graduate education. I think the ARM and CPCU designations give credibility to the profession. Plus, formal college risk management degrees are becoming more popular these days. I know The University of Akron just launched a new risk management bachelor’s program in the fall of 2017 within the business school.

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

I think we could do a better job with streamlining certificates of insurance or, better yet, evaluating if they are even necessary. It just seems to me that there is a significant amount of time and expense around generating certificates. There has to be a more efficient way.

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

Selfishly, I prefer a destination with a direct flight when possible. RIMS does a nice job of selecting various locations throughout the country. It is a big job to successfully pull off a conference of that size.

Curt Gross, Director of Risk Management, Parker Hannifin Corp.

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

Definitely the change in nontraditional property & casualty exposures such as intellectual property and reputational risk. Those exposures existed way back when but in different ways. As computer networks become more and more connected and news travels at a more rapid pace, it just amplifies these types of exposures. Sometimes we have to think like the perpetrator, which can be difficult to do.

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

I hate to sound cliché — it’s quite the buzz these days — but I would have to say cyber. It’s such a complex risk involving nontraditional players and motives. Definitely a challenging exposure to get your arms around. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll really know the true exposure until there is more claim development.

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

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Our captive insurance company. I’ve been fortunate to work for several companies with a captive, each one with a different operating objective. I view a captive as an essential tool for a successful risk management program.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

I can’t point to just one. I have and continue to be lucky to work for really good managers throughout my career. Each one has taken the time and interest to develop me as a professional. I certainly haven’t arrived yet and welcome feedback to continue to try to be the best I can be every day.

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

I would like to think I have and continue to bring meaningful value to my company. However, I would have to say my family is my proudest accomplishment.

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

Favorite movie is definitely “Good Will Hunting.”

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

Tough question to narrow down. If my wife ran a restaurant, it would be hers. We try to have dinner as a family as much as possible. If I had to pick one restaurant though, I would say Fire Food & Drink in Cleveland, Ohio. Chef Katz is a culinary genius.

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

The Grand Canyon. It is just so vast. A close second is Stonehenge.

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

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A few, actually. Up until a few years ago, I owned a sport bike (motorcycle). Of course, I wore the proper gear, took a safety course and read a motorcycle safety book. Also, I have taken a few laps in a NASCAR [race car] around Daytona International Speedway at 180 mph. Most recently, trying to ride my daughter’s skateboard.

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

The Dalai Lama. A world full of compassion, tolerance and patience and free of discrimination, racism and violence, while perhaps idealistic, sounds like a wonderful place to me.

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

I really enjoy the company I work for and my role, because I get the opportunity to work with various functions. For example, while mostly finance, I get to interact with legal, human resources, employee health and safety, to name a few.

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

I asked my son. He said, “Risk management and insurance.” (He’s had the benefit of bring-your-kid-to-work day.)

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