Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Earthquakes and the Pacific Northwest

We live in one of the most beautiful places in the world.  Most of us don't like to think about earthquake risk on any consistent basis.  Some of us have ensured that our homes are tied down to their foundations; and that we have an emergency supply kit as well as a family plan for how to find one another if our smartphones won't work.  And that we have emergency supplies in our vehicles and our offices as well.
Emergency kit in our home includes basics as well as a spreadsheet of vital information.

Emergency supplies in my trunk.

A little more than a week ago, the New Yorker published an article by Kathryn Schultz that has caused a great deal of panic and anxiety.  She published a second article this week, attempting to refine the ghastly overly dramatic tone of the first piece; and this time to offer some pretty straightforward recommendations on preparedness at

Other perspectives on how prepared we are here in the Pacific Northwest can be found at; or on the website of the Seattle Office of Emergency Preparedness at

I will say that any articles written about preparedness move the bar a bit higher in terms of neighborhood and civic preparedness.  For myself, I'm changing out some emergency supplies now that I no longer eat much else than greens, beans, other vegetables and fruits.  Once this heat spell is past, I plan to be growing more than Walla Walla onions and green peppers.

How prepared is your family to live without services or support for up to a week?

Do what's reasonable, and then relax -- go out and enjoy this, the most beautiful place in the world!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Personal risks and rewards

When I teach operational risk courses, I try to stress that life (and business) is full of risks; and that taking risks with confidence moves you forward, whether you are a family or a business firm.  I had a chance last weekend see that premise manifest itself exactly.

Some of you know that I was born in a small town in Northern Iowa, our family of four part of a larger interwoven group of four Irish Catholic families residing among Scandinavian Protestants.  My great-great grandparents had emigrated from Rathkeale a week after being married in 1861.  My grandfather ("TJ" Hayes) was born in Illinois, but moved to Iowa, where he farmed, bought and sold horses, and raised seven children with his wife, Anna Quinn.  Each of these large moves, from Ireland to Illinois, and from Illinois to Iowa, brought forward momentum and better lives.  Though TJ's grandchildren and great-grandchildren have scattered to many parts of the world, 80 of them returned to celebrate their history and close connection at my cousin Jim Hayes' amazing home in Iowa City this past weekend.  This is the eighth such five year reunion that Jim has hosted, which makes it 40 years old.  He spoke movingly of the four families whose lives intertwined from those first days in North Central Iowa:  the Hayes family, of which I am a member; the Morrissey family, connected through Jim's father's marriage to Alice Morrissey; the Newman family, connected through my Aunt Teresa's marriage to George Newman; and the Barrett family, connected through Nita Morrissey's marriage to James Barrett. 

This photo is blurred but will give you an idea of the volume still present of those four families on this earth.

There are roughly 80 of us in the photograph.

Here's one of the first cousins at the reunion.

Again, a blurred photo, but you get the idea.  These are relatives I have known my whole life.  Each of them has extended the momentum started so many years ago back in Ireland.

Finally, for historical context, I wanted to show a circa 1930 photo of TJ and Anna and their children, some of whom had already married by this time. 

 My mother, Margaret Cecelia Hayes Sowers, is sitting fourth from the right in the first row.  Her father TJ is sitting front row sixth from the right.  My Uncle Jim Hayes, father of host James P. (also Jim) Hayes is first row on the left. Grandma Hayes is middle row, second from the right.

I come from generations of risk takers, each finding its own personal rewards in lives well lived.  It probably explains to some extent how I ended up at this point in my life as a risk detective and as a university lecturer on ethics, policy, law and risk.