Risk Insider: Marilyn Rivers

The Snow Keeps Falling and the Snow Has Won

By: | February 18, 2015

Marilyn Rivers, CPCU, ARM, AIC, currently serves as the director of risk and safety — city safety and compliance officer for a municipality in Upstate New York 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].

This season, municipalities across the northern regions of the United States have been inundated with snow and lots more is coming our way. Our overtime budgets are strapped and for the life of us we can’t seem to find enough salt or sand to help pave the roads throughout our communities.

It’s telling that Punxsutawney Phil not only saw his shadow this year earmarking another six weeks of winter, but that he tried to take a snip at his handler. One might gather he’s as sick and tired of beating back the weather as every snowplow operator across the United States.

Public risk managers are drowning in snowplow vehicular accidents, sheared mailboxes and damage from pockmarked roadways.

We know of the dangers and fear for your safety. We ask that you not call us killjoys, Scrooge or any four-letter words.

For every snow emergency called, there is a resident who claims it was never issued, and that his vehicle was completely engulfed by an unseen snow bank that he hit in the dark of the early morning appears to be everyone’s fault but his own.

Snowy hillsides whose curves are marked by dangerous conditions beckon to be sledded, skied or tobogganed. No amount of signage stops the adventurous, the folks who ignore the signs.

Municipal risk managers get it … truly we do. Yes, we were kids once although many residents now think we were spawned from the devil himself. We once sought that Radio Flyer for the holidays, fastened our mittens tight, and held on for dear life as we hopped on that sled to feel the exhilaration of the wind and the cold.

Problem is, we’ve grown up. We now get those pesky accident reports that claim our snow-covered hillsides are dangerous and cause calamity and injury.

Gone is the innocence of every risk manager’s youth.

I’m sometimes asked if I know the terrain of a hillside marked for “No Sledding.” Really? There are many dangerous hillsides marked with a “No Sledding” moniker. Do residents really expect us to map out the topography, the tree stumps, the divots, the gulleys and know exactly where they might get hurt?

How often have adults, or parents or guardians ignored the signage and said just this once … in the beauty of the snowfall … let’s take that chance?

Don’t. We know of the dangers and fear for your safety. We ask that you not call us killjoys, Scrooge or any four-letter words.

Think of the potential injuries — concussions, broken limbs and a potential loss of life — the next time you say to yourself … just this once, nothing will happen. I used to do this all the time when I was a kid.

Should you take the risk and fail, call 911, but don’t call me the next morning and tell me I should have known there was a tree stump that appeared out of nowhere and hit you in the teeth.

The patience of weather-weary risk managers is slowly waning amidst the claims of those who should have know better, but consciously decided to take a risk. Like Punxsutawney Phil, we wish we could nip back too.

Read all of Marilyn Rivers’ Risk Insider contributions.

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