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 … .”

Advertisement




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

2018 Most Dangerous Emerging Risks

Emerging Multipliers

It’s not that these risks are new; it’s that they’re coming at you at a volume and rate you never imagined before.
By: | April 9, 2018 • 3 min read

Underwriters have plenty to worry about, but there is one word that perhaps rattles them more than any other word. That word is aggregation.

Advertisement




Aggregation, in the transferred or covered risk usage, represents the multiplying potential of a risk. For examples, we can look back to the asbestos claims that did so much damage to Lloyds’ of London names and syndicates in the mid-1990s.

More recently, underwriters expressed fears about the aggregation of risk from lawsuits by football players at various levels of the sport. Players, from Pee Wee on up to the NFL, claim to have suffered irreversible brain damage from hits to the head.

That risk scenario has yet to fully play out — it will be decades in doing so — but it is already producing claims in the billions.

This year’s edition of our national-award winning coverage of the Most Dangerous Emerging Risks focuses on risks that have always existed. The emergent — and more dangerous — piece to the puzzle is that these risks are now super-charged with risk multipliers.

Take reputational risk, for example. Businesses and individuals that were sharply managed have always protected their reputations fiercely. In days past, a lapse in ethics or morals could be extremely damaging to one’s reputation, but it might take days, weeks, even years of work by newspaper reporters, idle gossips or political enemies to dig it out and make it public.

Brand new technologies, brand new commercial covers. It all works well; until it doesn’t.

These days, the speed at which Internet connectedness and social media can spread information makes reputational risk an existential threat. Information that can stop a glittering career dead in its tracks can be shared by millions with a casual, thoughtless tap or swipe on their smartphones.

Aggregation of uninsured risk is another area of focus of our Most Dangerous Emerging Risks (MDER) coverage.

The beauty of the insurance model is that the business expands to cover personal and commercial risks as the world expands. The more cars on the planet, the more car insurance to sell.

The more people, the more life insurance. Brand new technologies, brand new commercial covers. It all works well; until it doesn’t.

As Risk & Insurance® associate editor Michelle Kerr and her sources point out, growing populations and rising property values, combined with an increase in high-severity catastrophes, threaten to push the insurance coverage gap to critical levels.

This aggregation of uninsured value got a recent proof in CAT-filled 2017. The global tally for natural disaster losses in 2017 was $330 billion; 60 percent of it was uninsured.

Advertisement




This uninsured gap threatens to place unsustainable pressure on public resources and hamstring society’s ability to respond to natural disasters, which show no sign of slowing down or tempering.

A related threat, the combination of a failing infrastructure and increasing storm severity, marks our third MDER. This MDER looks at the largely uninsurable risk of business interruption that results not from damage to your property or your suppliers’ property, but to publicly maintained infrastructure that provides ingress and egress to your property. It’s a danger coming into shape more and more frequently.

As always, our goal in writing about these threats is not to engage in fear mongering. It’s to initiate and expand a dialogue that can hopefully result in better planning and mitigation, saving the lives and limbs of businesses here and around the world.

2018 Most Dangerous Emerging Risks

Critical Coverage Gap

Growing populations and rising property values, combined with an increase in high-severity catastrophes, are pushing the insurance protection gap to a critical level.

Climate Change as a Business Interruption Multiplier

Crumbling roads and bridges isolate companies and trigger business interruption losses.

 

Reputation’s Existential Threat

Social media — the very tool used to connect people in an instant — can threaten a business’s reputation just as quickly.

 

AI as a Risk Multiplier

AI has potential, but it comes with risks. Mitigating these risks helps insurers and insureds alike, enabling advances in almost every field.

 

Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance. He can be reached at [email protected]