Sunday, September 14, 2014

Ebola Risk

I wish those public health departments would hold off from announcing that there is no risk to residents in America.  We don't know how long this will be true since globalization has truly reduced both time and space among countries.  It's also now being rather quietly suggested among epidemiologists that the virus is mutating so rapidly that it could become airborne.

I published an ASA News & Notes column last Monday on high level Ebola risk and the cultural dimensions that make containing Ebola just that more difficult.  Tomorrow a London-based magazine called The Risk Universe will be publishing a piece directed primarily to the financial sector, on how firms can prepare for bio-threats.  I'll post it up to our website, in case you're not already signed up to receive updates.  You can adapt many of the practices I recommend for businesses for your own family.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The bell has tolled. Did you hear it?

We all shivered when we read that the Napa region in California was recovering from a 6.0 magnitude earthquake early yesterday morning.  Today, some of the excitement has receded, as the area assesses damage and cleans up.
Always in the trunk of my car: boots, water bottle and "evac pack" with flares, blanket, etc.

From first floor hallway, our "away" backpack that contains supplies, water, food. I also have included information on medications, insurance policies, credit cards, etc.

We're nearing the end of a glorious Seattle summer, and starting to think about back to school matters.  Even as we're out there picking up school supplies, why not see what you can do about building or enhancing your emergency supplies kit?  Take a look at what you've got that needs to be replaced, or what you need in fact to get started.

My own challenge is larger than life.  Though we have one of those backpacks filled with dried rations, I don't eat processed foods any longer.  So I've started to think about what I could maintain off the grid that might work:  cans of low salt beans or tomatoes work fine, as do containers of unsalted nuts, but that's about it.  I eat several cups a day of raw salad or steamed vegetables, and four fruits, and a handful of nuts.  So that means I've got to start thinking about year-round gardening in a relatively small space.  I'll keep you posted on what I come up with.

In our neighborhood, we've organized even further.  Not only do we have the 300+ house region divided up with first aid and daycare sites identified, but we've raised the money to invest in medical supplies housed in each region.  We're now producing a laminated flyer with area-specific information for residents.   We're hosting a community event in September, and also signing up folks at an upcoming neighborhood event.  We have identified neighbors with special skills or access to tools we might need in the event of a major earthquake.

So we're moving forward, on the assumption that there won't be help from police or fire or emergency teams from the city for at least three days.  We are getting ready, that is, to help ourselves.

This model can be replicated in any city, anywhere.  If you'd like more information, let me know.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

My hands are raised.

There are so many critical points of decision for any thinking person nearly every day.  For each decision made, one would hope that there is a risk managed.  But it's not always so.  In the last week or so, the Ebola virus and the  Ferguson, Missouri chain of events take a great deal of thought, but without any clear path forward, no matter how much our hearts and minds might ache for those involved.  Is containment possible in either case?

I am saddened by the Africans' fear of American doctors, by the belief that the doctors brought and are spreading the virus.  At such a level of fear, education is very much hit and miss -- why should they believe medical personnel who tell them not to touch the bodies of their dead ones, or let them be burned by those wearing protective suits, who look like space aliens?  Why especially believe in the seriousness of the problem when your government leaders downplayed the risk for so long, when travel continues even now?  And then there's us:  we are told not to worry here, that there's very little risk.  Please expect that information to change once several more non-Africans are infected and cross borders.

Then we have Ferguson, Missouri.  Investigators have not yet even agreed on what happened last weekend.  Was an unarmed black youth's hands in the air, and was he yelling "Don't shoot?"  Or was he trying to take a police officer's gun away?  Who was the officer who shot him multiple times?  It won't be until outside investigators are on the case, this many days later, that we will begin to have answers or eyewitnesses are interviewed.  The fact of the matter is that the suburb of Ferguson has become a place not unlike Jackson Mississippi in the 60s, except that so far dogs and fire hoses have not been used. Riot gear and weapons are the modern replacements, but the police mindset is exactly what it was 50 years ago.  They are facing off against members of the media and a few troublemakers in what has each night been a peaceful crowd of citizens, exercising their right to peaceably assemble, as guaranteed in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

Unfortunately,  shooting young black men is an altogether too familiar news story for us here in America.  Congressman John Lewis asked today who knows what those young men could have become:  "How many more young men of color will be killed before we realize that we have a problem in America? We are permitting the incarceration and shooting of thousands of black and brown boys in their formative years who might have become great artists, leaders, scientists, or lawyers if we had offered them our support instead of our suspicion.

Yesterday, this photo appeared from students at Howard University.

I stand with the Howard University students, and with the Ferguson citizens who have come out each night to ask for an accounting of what happened last weekend, whose hands are also raised.  I hope you will consider standing with them too.   Not just this week, but into the future as we demand better accountability and less stereotyping and profiling from our police officers, no matter what city we are in.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Travel risk is high

It's not just that airplanes have been disappearing, or shot down, or that the infectious disease Ebola is out of control in parts of Africa, or that Tel Aviv travel was suspended by major airlines when shelling came too close to the airport . Travel risk has always been an issue for corporations whose employees are spread round the globe.  In this morning's New York Times article, Joe Sharkey goes inside a gathering of corporate travel managers to better understand their concerns, including legal and ethical risks, given the last week or so of travel events.

If you're traveling on your own and don't have a corporate travel office to rely upon to filter out threats and make best recommendations, then your best bet is to go to the Department of State's website and read through the threat analysis they perform on countries you might visit. 

If you're just learning to travel, then the "On The Road" chapter of Advice From A Risk Detective will be of use.

No one wants you to stop traveling.  But we do want you to make safe choices at a time when many parts of the world are less stable than usual.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Happy Fifth Annivesary!

Here's a look back at my blog post from July of 2009, where it all started with the launch of ASA's website and a celebration.

 ASA Launch Photo Essay

As I mentioned yesterday, the launch party was a grand event. All design and details were handled by Lauren.

She persuaded photographer Weston Jandacka to come and shoot the first two hours of the party. These are all his photos.

Lauren and Leroy guarding a tray of chocolate dipped strawberries and Trader Joe's cashews.

ASA logo designer Jesse Brown looking over the website in a moment of quiet...

Mike Crandall and myself....

Another of Lauren's table arrangements...

Mike, Annie and Shelby Edwards.

From the left: Bruno Langevin, Bo Hok Cline, Julie Hillers, Annie and Karen Pierce, right foreground. Al Wilson is in the background.

Shelby Edwards and Fred Pursell.

Greg Harp greets former colleague, Kris Jorgensen.

The First and Union web team....Sherry Stripling, Rick New, and Molly Martin.

Annie and visual artist/architect Bo Hok Cline.

There are always folks in the courtyard, near the food and drink.

Left to right: Molly Martin, Eric Holdeman, Al Wilson, Annie.

Greg Harp, Kris Jorgensen, Steve Hankel, who drove up from Portland.

Susan Hildebrand Stringer.

Al Wilson and Greg Harp.

Jan Reynolds.

Me and my former boss, Deb Horvath, who is always there to support me.

Here are the co-conspirators looking a little punchy: Annie and Lauren, who has made this launch and my summer a truly memorable experience.

Last but by no means least. Tracey Graham. one of my former team, now leading the Washington state financial coalition. She presented me with a three legged frog who has coins in his mouth for good fortune. When we are in the office, the frog looks out the door. When we leave, we face the frog into the office, so as to maintain our good fortune.

It is a pleasure to have friends and colleagues such as those pictured above, especially when you have known many of them through various cycles of their lives.

For a few more thoughts on what we have accomplished this first five years, and how things are about to evolve next month, please take a look at my personal blog, "A Walker's Journal."

Saturday, July 19, 2014

What technology hath wrought....

Last quarter, I received an excellent paper on the risks around robotic surgery.   This morning, I opened my TED summary to find a TED talk about a new and improved trochar, designed by an engineer.  And when I opened the   the Financial Times later this morning, I found "Wear Your Medicine," on new digital tools for those with medical conditions.

We view much of what medicine has to offer with increased trepidation over cost, over whether or not a procedure or medicine is actually necessary, and with suspicion that is a result of having seen too many revisions on instructions on what is or is not good for your health.  As technology has more of an impact on the medical profession and on healthcare in general, costs appear to be rising, not decreasing.

The most egregious example of course is the layers of bureaucracy and incompetence among schedulers for the Veterans Administration.  It's not just that it's difficult to get an appointment.  The computer platforms are  outdated and interconnections with other relevant databases -- like military medical record history -- seem to be painfully slow or non-existent.  Both the military and the Veterans Administration have the same challenges as private hospitals in bringing what were formerly paper records online.

The moral of this reflection is that what technology hath wrought is often peril rather than streamlined ease of use, whether it's in large databases, surgical suites, Google Glass, or even smart contact lenses for diabetics.

Monday, June 23, 2014

On the road again!

I'm off in the morning to Boston, then on to New York City.  I'll actually spend four days away this trip, something not possible during the academic year, when I'm teaching.  Though this is a work trip, it certainly feels more like a vacation in many respects.

I'll be at New York University on Wednesday and Thursday for a gathering called the Global Risk Forum, a group of 50-60 experts from around the world and major critical infrastructure sectors on both the public and private sides that meet once a year.  I've been attending since 2007, when we met in Florence.  This year's forum looks at regional resilience and will feature remarks from colleagues like Pete O'Dell on cyber, Brian Tishuk on coalition building, and Paula Scalingi on regional focus.   The keynote address on the first day will be on climate change, and I'll report back on that and other sessions that take place.

I'll have time to visit the recently completed 911 museum that we saw a year ago under construction on Friday morning.  The museum is mostly underground, with the memorial fountains outside marking the actual footprint of the towers.
Names of those who died are inscribed on the sides of the fountain.

2011 Fountains still under construction

Original WTC slurry wall preserved in museum.
One of the original WTC girders, also preserved in the museum.

Assuming that my faculties are still working after that visit, I hope to work in a trip north to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the new roof garden installation as well as a Chinese calligraphy show and an exhibit of wallpapers and textiles from William Morris.  I figure I can go directly from the Met to the airport if necessary.

Post trip postscript:  I just plain ran out of time and energy.  Next trip I will build more time into such visual pleasures.