Column: Risk Management

Opinion | Is Risk Management Just an Illusion? What I Learned in Seven Minutes.

By: | June 1, 2018 • 3 min read
Joanna Makomaski is a specialist in innovative enterprise risk management methods and implementation techniques. She can be reached at [email protected]

Imagine taking a stroll down a city block on a sunny afternoon. As you walk the sidewalk, you pass restaurant patios, beauty salons, coffee spots and pet shops. You see students waiting for buses; folks taking lunch. Near the retirement home, you pass elderly residents moving along slowly, aided by walkers.

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Now imagine walking this same block a few days later, but this time with the knowledge that just a few days ago your neighbors lay dead along your route.

I took this walk in Toronto, together with thousands of fellow residents, first responders, dignitaries and neighbors. Beautiful vigils and interfaith services were held in honor of those killed and affected by the horrific van attack that took place here on April 23, 2018.

Makeshift memorials expanded with every hour. Banners — “Love for all. Hatred for none” — were carried along with us. Choirs sang. Mountains of flowers, candles, cards and drawings lay at every location where our neighbors were killed along this stretch of road, equivalent to two subway stops in length.

The march down Toronto’s Yonge Street brought together thousands who are still reeling after that murderous day in late April. It was a show of respect, unity and shared sorrow. A show of resilience. #TorontoStrong.

Anne Marie, Ji Hun, Andrea, So He, Geraldine, Renuka, Chul Min, Dorothy, Munir and 94-year-old Mary Elizabeth are dead.

They were deliberately run down by a speeding van driven by a killer who drove down the same sidewalks we marched today.

It took seven minutes. Seven minutes changed the lives of so many.

Seven minutes allowed for the senseless murder of 10 and injuries to many more. These seven minutes gutted me and made me question whether risk management was just an illusion when it comes preventing these mass murdering attacks.

This type of attack is an assault of the imagination for anyone with normal sensibilities. How can anyone of sound mind imagine a driver jumping the sidewalk of a busy city street, veering on and off the sidewalk at high speed and deliberately gunning for innocent pedestrians; including the most vulnerable from a local retirement community.

With time the flowers will wilt, and the memorials will be relocated. The city will eventually make claims for the damaged bus shelter, post boxes and benches.

These seven minutes gutted me and made me question whether risk management was just an illusion when it comes preventing these mass murdering attacks.

Risk managers with the local businesses and residences will claim their physical losses; but what can we say to employees or residents?

Are the risk managers changing their risk registers to include the threat of this act in the future? Should they?

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Or are we once again forced to chalk up this event as a random act of murder? Or are these events simply unpreventable?

As a tenacious risk professional, I hate conceding to this notion. But this event has brought me to my knees on this subject.

The city will likely install more concrete bollards and other structures to make it harder to recreate this act. But common sense says it is next to impossible to fortress a city fully to protect its populace.

And now I question if this is even the right approach. Is this the right risk management investment? I question a lot since this happened.

I grieve the loss of my neighbors. I grieve for the loss of innocence of my beloved city.

I grieve for the loss of the perceived effectiveness of risk management, a profession and practice that I commit myself to and very much believe in.  I will get past this, but I wonder — where do we go from here? &

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]