Dealing with the Earthquake Risks 

There’s something wonderful about a clear blue sky at 7am, a second cup of coffee, enjoying a lazy Labor Day weekend, and some alone time as the family sleeps in. The peace didn’t last very long as five minutes later the quiet was interrupted by what felt like an eighteen wheeler alarmingly close by.

But that was no runaway truck. You may remember from the news that my part of Oklahoma was hit by an M5.8 earthquake[1]. My brain still thinks ‘this can’t be right’ as everyone knows California has earthquakes, not Oklahoma. Everyone knows Florida has hurricanes and Oklahoma only has tornados. Last weekend ‘everyone knows’ became ‘everyone used to know’.

Our house has a tornado shelter, we have several weeks of food and water stored, redundant battery powered radios, tornado insurance, and a solid plan. Sure, we’ve felt some minor tremors in the past, but never a real, ground shaking, building rattling, shelves collapsing earthquake.

The timing couldn’t be better, September is National Preparedness Month[2], the Federal Government’s outreach program that wants to make Americans more prepared for emergencies. It’s the perfect time to (re)assess both your personal preparedness but especially the preparedness of your organization:

  • Does your organization have a Risk Identification, Risk Assessment, and a Risk Mitigation Process?
    When somebody asks the best time to plant a tree the answer is ‘20 years ago’. If haven’t mastered time travel, the second best answer is ‘today’. If you don’t have any of these process in place now is the time to figure them out.
  • If you have a Risk Assessment process, how do you measure its effectiveness?
    Most businesses have multiple Risk Assessment processes. You should be asking yourself are the same tired list of risks coming up year after year? Are risks being identified at such a high level that they are meaningless? The Chief Risk Officer for a large health care system told me they spent multiple hours of executive time identifying top risks. They questioned what would happen if Medicare or Medicaid went bankrupt. Finally, somebody smart asked why were they worried about something they couldn’t prevent or control. If either or both go under so would they. That freed them up to focus on the risks they could act upon.
  • Are mitigation plans being developed and implemented at the right level in the organization?
    I spent some time in the oil and gas industry and on my first visit to a processing plant I got the canned packaged safety training video. As I was watching it with the plant supervisor I asked what to do if something really went boom. “When the firemen come running, you run in the opposite direction” is advice I’ll never forget.
  • Is identifying, assessing, and mitigating risk what we do or who we are?
    As you might imagine, I have a great deal of respect for companies that live and breathe Risk Management. A well-liked client came to see us recently and asked us if we could start each day with an exercise that they do in all of their offices: Before any meeting starts they go around the table and give each other a 30 second tip on how to reduce risk. Something simple, quick, not scripted, and delightfully ad-hoc. It’s who they are and they take it with them wherever they go.

Our country loves to wish people a happy-anything, so happy National Preparedness Month! Please make some time to identify, assess, and mitigate the risks in your personal and business life.

This weekend I’ll be sipping coffee at 7am and getting ready for the next Oklahoma earthquake. My family and I have a whole new area of risk to think about and to plan for.