Risk Insider: Marilyn Rivers

Herding Cats

By: | May 9, 2016 • 2 min read
Marilyn Rivers, CPCU, ARM, AIC, currently serves as the Director of Risk and Safety - City Safety and Compliance Officer for the City of Saratoga Springs, NY and is a Director at Large and Delegate for the Government and Public Sector Division of the National Safety Council. 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

2018 Risk All Stars

Stop Mitigating Risk. Start Conquering It Like These 2018 Risk All Stars

The concept of risk mastery and ownership, as displayed by the 2018 Risk All Stars, includes not simply seeking to control outcomes but taking full responsibility for them.
By: | September 14, 2018 • 3 min read

People talk a lot about how risk managers can get a seat at the table. The discussion implies that the risk manager is an outsider, striving to get the ear or the attention of an insider, the CEO or CFO.

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But there are risk managers who go about things in a different way. And the 2018 Risk All Stars are prime examples of that.

These risk managers put in gear their passion, creativity and perseverance to become masters of a situation, pushing aside any notion that they are anything other than key players.

Goodyear’s Craig Melnick had only been with the global tire maker a few months when Hurricane Harvey dumped a record amount of rainfall on Houston.

Brilliant communication between Melnick and his new teammates gave him timely and valuable updates on the condition of manufacturing locations. Melnick remained in Akron, mastering the situation by moving inventory out of the storm’s path and making sure remediation crews were lined up ahead of time to give Goodyear its best leg up once the storm passed and the flood waters receded.

Goodyear’s resiliency in the face of the storm gave it credibility when it went to the insurance markets later that year for renewals. And here is where we hear a key phrase, produced by Kevin Garvey, one of Goodyear’s brokers at Aon.

“The markets always appreciate a risk manager who demonstrates ownership,” Garvey said, in what may be something of an understatement.

These risk managers put in gear their passion, creativity and perseverance to become masters of a situation, pushing aside any notion that they are anything other than key players.

Dianne Howard, a 2018 Risk All Star and the director of benefits and risk management for the Palm Beach County School District, achieved ownership of $50 million in property storm exposures for the district.

With FEMA saying it wouldn’t pay again for district storm losses it had already paid for, Howard went to the London markets and was successful in getting coverage. She also hammered out a deal in London that would partially reimburse the district if it suffered a mass shooting and needed to demolish a building, like what happened at Sandy Hook in Connecticut.

2018 Risk All Star Jim Cunningham was well-versed enough to know what traditional risk management theories would say when hospitality workers were suffering too many kitchen cuts. “Put a cut-prevention plan in place,” is the traditional wisdom.

But Cunningham, the vice president of risk management for the gaming company Pinnacle Entertainment, wasn’t satisfied with what looked to him like a Band-Aid approach.

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Instead, he used predictive analytics, depending on his own team to assemble company-specific data, to determine which safety measures should be used company wide. The result? Claims frequency at the company dropped 60 percent in the first year of his program.

Alumine Bellone, a 2018 Risk All Star and the vice president of risk management for Ardent Health Services, faced an overwhelming task: Create a uniform risk management program when her hospital group grew from 14 hospitals in three states to 31 hospitals in seven.

Bellone owned the situation by visiting each facility right before the acquisition and again right after, to make sure each caregiving population was ready to integrate into a standardized risk management system.

After consolidating insurance policies, Bellone achieved $893,000 in synergies.

In each of these cases, and in more on the following pages, we see examples of risk managers who weren’t just knocking on the door; they were owning the room. &

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Risk All Stars stand out from their peers by overcoming challenges through exceptional problem solving, creativity, clarity of vision and passion.

See the complete list of 2018 Risk All Stars.

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