Risk Management: Perceptions and Perspectives 2012

Edward A. Schirick, CPCU, CIC, CRM

Change is inevitable and everywhere. As we know, this is both good and not so good news. It’s good news for those of us who embrace change, revel in its benefits, and must employ the latest technology in our personal and business lives. On the other hand, change is not so good news for those of us who worry about the new risks that come along with change.

Thoughts on Risk for the Summer of 2012

Distracted Driving

Technology has revolutionized how we communicate, listen to music, read books, gather information, and play. There are many benefits. But, we can also be distracted. There is a strong likelihood that staff will be distracted by technology at many times during the summer, but especially while driving. This risk is growing with potentially tragic consequences.

A National Safety Council study reported that distracted drivers can miss up to 50 percent of their driving environment, including pedestrians, stop signs, and red lights. The study’s insight included that drivers talking on cell phones — whether hand held or hands free — are four times more likely to crash. The risk of an accident for drivers who are texting while driving increases even further.

In spite of laws in ten states that make it illegal to use a handheld cell phone, drivers continue to do so. Is it because they are callous and don’t care about the law? Do they think they won’t get caught? Or do they just think talking on a cell phone while driving is not as risky as the experts think? What will it take to convince them? To whom will they listen?

What is your camp’s policy about staff talking on cell phones or texting while driving?

Drowsy Driving

Ever been drowsy while driving? Come on now! A study released by the AAA Foundation states drowsy driving is more pervasive than previously thought. In 2010, researchers reported that 41 percent of drivers admitted to having “fallen asleep or nodded off” while driving at some point in their lives. More than one out of every four drivers admitted to having driven when they were sleepy and had a hard time keeping their eyes open. The National Sleep Foundation’s 2009 poll reported one out of every six fatal accidents involved drowsy driving. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that insufficient sleep is a public health epidemic!

What is your camp’s policy about staff driving when tired or drowsy?

The Origin of Risk Management

Dictionary.com defines risk management as “the technique or profession of assessing, minimizing, and preventing accidental loss to a business as through the use of insurance, safety measures, and etcetera.” The origin of the term is circa 1960–1965.

The reference to the origin of the term refers more to the recognition of risk management as a profession than to its development as a technique. The fact is risk management as a technique of reducing loss has been around for centuries.

In ancient times, merchants are reported to have divided up their merchandise among several caravans crossing the deserts and changed shipping routes regularly to reduce the risk of theft from bands of thieves. This risk management technique increased the likelihood some of their merchandise would reach the intended destination and markets.

The definition also omits that risk management as a technique is a process with several steps; the first and most important of which is the identification of risk. Also overlooked is the fact that risk management is dynamic, constantly changing, and requires discipline as well as flexibility and creativity in finding solutions.

The Dimensions of Risk Management

The risk management process is about identifying, measuring, and managing risks — and in that sense it might be considered a three-dimensional process. Risk management measures incidents and accidents and their impacts on the camp business. Risk managers ask who, what, where, how, why, when, and how often. This is the science of risk management. As a science, it is about discipline with an emphasis on asking the right questions and gathering and analyzing statistics. Risk management is also an art. As an art, risk management is really all about flexibility, creativity, and constant improvement.

As a profession, risk management emphasizes the science and constantly seeks to improve and refine the various techniques for reducing risk (the art).

The Fourth Dimension

At the very core of the risk management process are the five steps: identifying, analyzing, controlling, financing, and monitoring. The discipline within this process is tried and true. There is another dimension to risk management — let’s call it the fourth dimension, because it is a softer concept not as clear and precise as the five steps.

Have you ever had a strong visceral reaction to a situation or circumstance at camp? That feeling or perception is often followed by words like, “I’m just not comfortable with the way we are handling that.” Perhaps you have found yourself in a situation that felt unfamiliar or a little uncomfortable, but after a quick assessment, you had confidence to make what you felt was a correct decision. What is that experience?

Some might say you are experiencing your intuition and instinct at work. Intuition is a keen and quick insight, a direct perception — pure, untaught, non-inferential knowledge. Instinct, on the other hand, is a natural or innate impulse, inclination, or tendency (natural intuitive power). Can you think of a time at camp when your intuition and instinct were sounding an alarm? Did you listen?

Intuition and instinct do not flow from training or experience. Have you ever been placed in a situation you’ve never been in before — one in which you had no prior training or warning — and responded splendidly and appropriately? Consider the following scenario: A camper is waterskiing and gets the tow rope wrapped around his thumb. The worst happens, and his thumb is amputated. While one counselor makes the rescue, the other calls for help and has the remaining campers sit on the floor of the boat below the gunnels so they don’t see the injured camper. When that counselor is asked subsequently if he had been instructed to do this, he says, “No, but shielding the other campers from seeing the injured water skier and from the upset of the situation just seemed like the right thing to do.” Is this intuition? Could it be instinct?

Consider another scenario. You see campers throwing a Frisbee and realize that the site chosen by the counselor puts the campers at risk of running into a tree. You foresee this risk very clearly — so clearly, in fact, that you just can’t believe the other counselor doesn’t see it. Is this intuition and instinct?

Are intuition and instinct risk management’s fourth dimension? Although scientifically difficult to prove, experience and anecdotal evidence show that intuition and instinct definitely have a role in risk management.

This summer, stay focused on the structure and discipline that is at the heart of risk management and camp operations. But, don’t be afraid to listen to your own instinct and intuition and to encourage staff to share their insight on risk reduction, risk avoidance, and prevention. You might be quite pleased with the outcome of this.

For everyone’s sake, ask staff and anyone associated with camp to promise not to text while driving, talk on their cell phone while driving, or drive drowsy at any time, but especially this summer. Encourage them to listen to their instinct and intuition. It is good risk management!

Edward A. Schirick, CPCU, CIC, CRM, is senior vice president at Schirick & Associates Insurance Brokers, a division of Bollinger Inc. in Short Hills, New Jersey, where he specializes in arranging insurance coverage and offering risk management advice for camps. Schirick is a chartered property casualty underwriter, a certified insurance counselor, and a certified risk manager. He can be reached at 877.794.3113. Visit www.campinsurancepro.com.

Originally published in the 2012 July/August Camping Magazine. 

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