Preparing C-Level Employees to Address Risk

As risks associated with technology and cybersecurity have increased in the last decade, it is more imperative than ever that corporations undertake the proper protocols to protect themselves.

When it comes to implementing risk management processes, many assume C-level executives head up these efforts, involving key departments throughout their organizations. According to a recent study conducted by NC State’s Poole College of Management, however, 80% of organizations surveyed from all over the world have no formal risk training for executives.
A quick look at recent headlines shows how quickly a cybersecurity incident can damage a corporate brand. Many companies that have recently experienced data breaches also have been exposed by the media because of ineffective or nonexistent integrated risk management strategies. This can be for a variety of reasons, from executives trying to hide the breach to the belief that they can resolve the issue before it grows into something larger or, possibly the worst of the options, they are not aware that the breach is even occurring.

So how do we make risk a priority for executives? In my opinion, it comes down to properly re-framing the mindset of executives around risk through effective education and training.

Educate executives on risk types
When it comes to business, the term “risk” generally produces negative connotations, causing many to avoid addressing the phrase—and the issues—altogether. From workplace injuries, data breaches and even social media nightmares, risks tend to mean trouble for executive teams. The reality, however, is that not all risk is bad. Thus, executive teams must be able to distinguish good risk from bad risk.

What constitutes good risk? Simply put; proactive risk choices that benefit the company. These can include exploring emerging markets and growth opportunities, expanding operations into new product areas and even partnering with new vendors. While these risks can produce negative results, given that they are actively pursued by leadership teams shows that they are intended to better the company and its employees.

Executive teams need to understand the differences in positive and negative risks and their larger impact to their organizations. Specifically, understanding multiple risk types exist can change the approaches your management team takes to recognize and address risks, which will echo throughout your organization.

Train executives on how to address negative risks
Executives must realize negative risks are unavoidable. Because negative incidents will happen, executive teams must learn how to bring proactive approaches to managing these speedbumps in daily operations. Thus, formal training programs should be implanted to educate executives on proper risk management.

Training programs should include internal and external communications strategies, both with positive and negative risks, remediation strategies for negative risks and provide tips on how leadership teams can be risk thought leaders throughout the organization.

Remember, an executive team that places value on proper risk management planning and training will produce a similar culture, enterprise wide.

This will allow organizations to more proactively manage risks before they snowball into larger issues, ensuring long-term success.

Consider creating risk committees
Since all C-level executives are crunched for time, risk management often falls to the back burner. In many situations, I’ve found it beneficial for the C-suite to create corporate risk committees. Designed to reduce the burden on corporate executives by providing an advisory board to report on risks, corporations can benefit from dedicated professionals examining risks throughout the organization in areas including IT and operations.

These committees serve as an extension of the C-suite and can create better transparency, while providing informed insights to help leadership teams make better, more educated decisions.

Remember the importance of a top-down approach
No matter what approach you take to educate your executive team and get them more involved in risk management, corporations must remember enterprise risk management requires working from the top down. As risk professionals, we must do our best to gain leadership buy-in and conduct enterprise-wide training to stay ahead of risk. If NC State’s study has taught us anything, it’s that we still have a lot to learn.

Calif. Mudslides Leave 15 Dead

Heavy rains in southern California have caused mudslides in some areas, killing at least 15 people and trapping hundreds. The deluge of mud now covering homes, businesses and freeways are the result of heavy rains washing away ground laid bare by the Thomas Fire—the state’s largest wildfire to-date—which burned more than 280,000 acres in December.
Many of those who had returned home after the wildfires have been evacuated for mudslides. The New York Times wrote:

As the mud rushed into lower-lying neighborhoods in Montecito, a wealthy hillside community where many celebrities have homes, the power went out and gas lines were severed, said Thomas Tighe, a resident. Officials said Tuesday night that it could be several days before gas service would be restored. They also said power failures were affecting more than 6,000 homes and businesses in the area, adding that many parts of Montecito were without drinkable water.

Driving rain started at about 3:00 a.m. on Jan. 9. By Tuesday, more than 5.5 inches of rain had fallen in parts of Ventura County, the National Weather Service said.  A mandatory evacuation order for about 7,000 residents was issued by Santa Barbara County officials, but many would not leave. As a result, people were trapped in homes and cars and on rooftops by fast-moving rivers of thick mud carrying trees and debris.
CNN reported that dozens of people have been rescued in Santa Barbara County, including a 14-year-old girl trapped beneath a house, and that parts of US 101 in Santa Barbara and Montecito have been closed.

Mudslides are not uncommon in the area, especially following wildfires, and they can be deadly. In January 2005, a landslide struck La Conchita in Ventura County, killing 10 people.

Flu-Related Deaths on the Rise

Frigid weather across the United States and low effectiveness of this year’s flu vaccine have been blamed for a jump in the number of flu cases being reported across the country. Epidemiologists in 36 states so far have reported widespread influenza activity to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Of those states, 21 reported a high number of cases.

Worldwide, the estimated number of fatalities caused by seasonal influenza-related respiratory illnesses is also higher than expected, according to the CDC. The agency released a new study in December 2017 with statistics indicating that between 291,000 and 646,000 people die from influenza every year, an increase from the previous estimate of 250,000 to 500,000. The estimates were drawn from a collaborative multinational survey conducted by the CDC and its global health partners.

“These findings remind us of the seriousness of flu and that flu prevention should really be a global priority,” said Joe Bresee, M.D., associate director for global health in CDC’s Influenza Division and a study co-author.

The study, which appeared in The Lancet, excluded data related to pandemics, indicated that poorer nations and older adults are especially at risk. It explained:

People age 75 years and older and people living in sub-Saharan African countries experienced the highest rates of flu-associated respiratory deaths. Eastern Mediterranean and Southeast Asian countries had slightly lower but still high rates of flu-associated respiratory deaths.

One cause for the rise could be that few developing countries have seasonal flu vaccination programs or the capacity to produce and distribute seasonal or pandemic vaccines.

The information was released following the CDC’s National Influenza Vaccination Week, which was held in early December 2017. That also marked what is typically considered the start of the season which continues through February in the U.S., although activity can last as late as May. Flu activity is expected to increase this month, the CDC warned back in December, and the freezing conditions from last week’s “bomb cyclone” may contribute to fully realizing that prediction.

People at high risk include:

  • Pregnant women.
  • Children younger than 5 years old, but especially children younger than 2 years old.
  • People 65 years of age and older.
  • People of any age who have certain medical conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease.

The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) suggests that employers use this critical time to promote policies and procedures to protect their employees from communicable diseases like influenza, and reinforce that the risks may be greater for certain workers. According to SHRM:

Employers must be open to discuss employee concerns and listen to their ideas and suggestions for ways to help them stay healthy. Employers can encourage employees who are at high risk to talk with their health care provider to determine what, if any, additional measures they should consider to keep themselves healthy and safe at work. Employers should strongly consider doctor’s accommodation requests for high-risk workers.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) web site has a fact sheet and guidelines for companies to follow with regard to the flu and pandemics. Additionally, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has a page with tips for employers hoping to curb seasonal flu outbreaks in their workplaces and among employees. NIOSH’s suggestions include:

Safe Driving in the Winter ‘Weather Bomb’

The much publicized Weather Bomb, AKA Bomb Cyclone is here in full force. As the storm travels north, much of the northeast is experiencing blinding snowstorms and fierce winds, and states of emergency have been declared in five states. Schools and airports are closed and warnings are in effect for workers to stay home and keep off the roads. Some people must get out and drive, however, and so whether making deliveries, heading to or from work, or running necessary errands, drivers and asked to use heightened caution.

AAA recommends a number of precautions, including this basic tip: Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Applying the gas slowly when accelerating is the best method for regaining traction and avoiding skids, AAA said, cautioning that it takes time to slow down for a stoplight as it takes longer to slow down on icy roads.

From Rear View Safety:
QBE notes that because any hazards are magnified with winter driving conditions, all distractions should be avoided. Check out these tips for safe driving and emergency measures.

QBE’s tips for safe winter driving:

  • Avoid driving while fatigued. It’s important to get the proper amount of rest before taking on winter weather driving to reduce risks.
  • Never run a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage, even if it’s just until it “warms up.”
  • Make certain your tires are in good condition and properly inflated.
  • Keep your gas tank at least half full at all times and full if severe winter weather is possible.
  • If possible, avoid using the car’s parking brake in cold, rainy or snowy weather.
  • Do not use your cruise control when driving on any slippery surface (wet, ice, sand).
  • Always look and steer in the direction you want to go to ensure safe travels and avoid possible hazards.
  • Use your seat belt every time you get into your vehicle.
  • Watch weather reports prior to a long-distance drive or before driving in isolated areas. Delay any trip when bad weather is expected. If you must travel, let others know your route, destination and estimated time of arrival.
  • Have regular vehicle inspections conducted to ensure you vehicle is in peak operating condition.

If you are snowbound:

  • Make sure you have appropriate phone numbers in your cell phone in case emergency phone calls are needed.
  • Stay with your vehicle. The car will provide temporary shelter and make it easier for rescuers to locate you.
  • Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna or place a cloth at the top of a rolled up window to signal distress.
  • At night, keep the dome light on if possible. It only uses a small amount of electricity and will make it easier for rescuers to find you.
  • Run the engine and heater just long enough to remove the chill to conserve gasoline.
  • Don’t try to walk in a severe snow storm. It is easy to lose sight of your vehicle and become lost in blowing snow.
  • Don’t over exert yourself if you try to push or dig your vehicle out of the snow.
  • Make sure the exhaust pipe isn’t clogged with snow, ice or mud. A blocked exhaust could cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to leak into the passenger compartment with the engine running.