Risk Insider: George Browne

What’s So Special About Special Hazards?

By: | November 14, 2017 • 2 min read
George Browne, CFPS, has a B.S. in Fire Protection. He is Manager of Training Services for Global Risk Consultants. He manages fire protection services, and develops and delivers training programs for clients on an individual basis. He can be reached at [email protected]

Defining special hazards seems straightforward; the typical expectation might be that, in the event of an emergency involving any of these hazards, there is the potential for a significant loss.


The incident has the potential to develop rapidly, cause substantial property damage and may even affect other properties in the area. Additionally, the hazard may require the following in order to provide life safety and property protection:

  • Special extinguishing systems required for fire control (clean agent, foam, CO2, water mist, etc.).
  • Special detection systems to provide detection of products generated by a special hazards incident (gas specific detectors, infrared or ultraviolet detectors, specialized smoke and heat detectors, explosion detectors, etc.).
  • Damage limiting construction to allow the pressure generated by an explosion to vent out of an area without destroying the structure (explosion relief panels for walls or roofs, vents, etc.).
  • A combination of any of the above.

The above criteria should make many special hazards easy to identify. Unfortunately, some special hazards can be hidden because the impact to the operation is not recognized. These hidden special hazards can include any of the following:

  • The reliability of utilities such as electric power, gas (natural gas or LPG), process/drinking/fire protection water or steam.
  • The vulnerability of the electric power to the site because there is only one transformer or multiple transformers that are rare and difficult to source if the transformer(s) fail.
  • The use of an electrically-driven fire pump, without considering the reliability of the power supply.
  • The reliability and adequacy of the local water supply to meet fire protection needs.
  • Identifying nearby exposures that can threaten the facility, including: fire, explosions and spills occurring at neighboring facilities, and wildfire exposures.
  • Evaluating the surrounding flood hazard and whether or not it might leave your facility high and dry, but isolated and unreachable by suppliers, shippers and employees.

There are many other things that can create a special hazard for an operation, and the above list is certainly not all inclusive. When one begins looking to identify special hazards, stick with the basics. Risk is based on severity of the impact to an operation and the frequency with which it can occur. High frequency and high impact events define the highest level of risk and are usually easy to identify. Low frequency events with high impact need to be qualified to see if they are a special hazard. High frequency events with low impact may also need to be better defined and may or may not be a special hazard.

When one begins looking to identify special hazards, stick with the basics.

You and your company’s policies determine what acceptable risk is. Look at your site and its operations to identify and qualify vulnerabilities. Determine which hazards are unique and require special attention. Large scale incident/emergencies don’t start big; they all start with small failures that compound on each other. Identifying and resolving special hazards is meant to contain the incident and keep it as small as possible.

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.


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.


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. &


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]