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.

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.

Santa’s Impact on Business and Finance

Just as Santa Claus brings gifts down chimneys, his name alone also carries the stigma of risks that transcend all industries. Indeed, thanks to the logistics of his job we better understand the risks of reindeer-led aviation. But perhaps more importantly, Kris Kringle’s presence has long influenced finance and business.

Mentioning him on Wall Street this year may trigger an underlying wealth management risk. The annual “Santa Claus Rally” marks an uptick in the stock market and a 1.4% average return of the S&P 500 index from the last five trading days of the year through the first two of January. This phenomenon can be attributable to people spending and investing a bit extra – possibly from holiday bonuses – leading to a generally happy mood on and off trading room floors.

Since 1950, the market has declined only 15 times during the Santa Claus Rally period. But due to the uncertainty surrounding the tax reform plan making its way through Congress, that 1-in-4.4 chance of downturn is on the minds of cynical investors. As reported recently by Investopedia, “Some bears think that, if Congress fails to make appreciable progress on tax reform before their holiday recess, Scrooge or Krampus will elbow Santa aside, and send the markets downward at year-end.”

And similar to the way Punxatawney Phil seeing his shadow on Groundhog Day can predict six more weeks of winter, Santa skipping stock exchanges’ chimneys may indicate a frosty new year. According to The Stock Trader’s Almanac, some of the more recent holiday seasons without a rally included the last two, as well as in late 2007 and early 2008 leading up to the financial crisis, and just before the dotcom bubble burst in the 1999-2000 holiday period.

Santa’s influence isn’t just relegated to stock speculation and short-term investments, however. Some executives and employees may emulate his work ethic without realizing it. All eyes turn to him in good times and especially during the bad. He’s trying to meet year-end quotas while keeping a workforce happy and focused. Plus, Santa has the burden of trans-meridian travel with frequent stops over a 24-hour period, which is sure to cause jet lag. Sound familiar?

While one all-nighter might not have major long-term effects, regular ones could lead to shift work disorder, which has been linked to chronic diseases and illnesses. Anyone known to “Santa Claus it” too frequently may accumulate a large “sleep debt” over time. According to the Sleep Foundation, “if you work at night, you’re also going against your biological clock, which is naturally cueing you to become less alert and encouraging you to sleep during the nighttime hours.”

This can lead to seasonal “presenteeism,” an issue Risk Management magazine recently explored, detailing pain management in the workforce. Presenteeism occurs when a worker inhabits a space at their job, but “is unable to focus and perform as expected” and can be an even greater drag on productivity than absenteeism. The condition is indiscriminate – it can affect interns and CEOs – and may cause someone to “miss out not only on the income, but also the sense of meaning, purposefulness and belonging that can be gained from a job. Initial distress may lead to chronic anxiety and even depression.”

Identify these risks now, so that the mention of Santa Claus doesn’t put a humbug in your eggnog this holiday season.

Critical Infrastructure, Security and Resilience Highlighted in November

National Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience Month (CISRM) kicked off on Nov. 1. The month’s initiatives address risks such as extreme weather, aging infrastructure, cyber threats and acts of terrorism. Its timing is certainly appropriate, as the effects of recent hurricanes on infrastructures in southern states and Puerto Rico continue to be assessed, as well as Northern California’s devastating wildfires and the deadliest shooting massacre in modern U.S. history.

The month was created by the Obama administration and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) hosts CISRM in an effort to promote education and awareness of the 16 critical infrastructure sectors that are vital to public safety and national security. Its page reads:

The evolving nature of the threat to critical infrastructure—as well as the maturation of our work and partnership with the private sector—has necessitated a shift from a focus on asset protection to an overarching system that builds resilience from all threats and hazards.

A CISRM toolkit provides companies with templates and drafts of newsletter articles, blogs, and other collateral material for use in outreach efforts. Activities geared toward business owners, public entities and private citizens focus on several key themes to enhance security and resilience, including:

  • Highlighting interdependencies between cyber and physical infrastructure
  • Pointing small and medium-sized businesses to the free tools and resources available to them to increase their security and resilience through Hometown Security and the four steps of “Connect, Plan, Train, and Report”
  • Promoting public-private partnerships
  • Fostering innovation and investments in infrastructure resilience

In his proclamation of CISRM earlier this week, President Trump further committed to helping businesses invest in “needed capital and research and development by reducing burdensome regulations and enacting comprehensive tax reform.” The proclamation states:

We will also renew our Nation’s focus on ensuring that the next generation has the education and training, particularly in science, technology, engineering, and math, required to meet the known and unknown threats of the future.

Overall the United States’ infrastructure is among the top 18 in the world, according to the 2017 FM Global Resilience Index, which aggregates data to help companies identify their key supply chain risks. The U.S. continued to hold high rankings among 130 countries based on drivers in three categories: economic, risk quality and supply chain factors. The U.S. is segmented into three regions to reflect disparate natural hazards exposure:

  • Region 1, encompasses much of the East Coast, is ranked #10 in the index (a one-spot upgrade from last year)
  • Region 2, primarily the Western U.S., is ranked #18 (a three-spot upgrade)
  • Region 3, which includes most of the central portion of the country, is ranked #9 (down three places)

Although the federal government is less focused on asset protection, business owners can still get involved by safeguarding workplaces. In its October 2017 edition, CLM magazine noted that another path toward resilience involves reducing property damage caused by extreme weather and natural disasters. Literally looking to the sky is one suggestion; business and property owners should pay particular attention to their roofs in order to prevent degradation and enable them to withstand high winds.

“Property owners need to have maintenance personnel adopt and implement preventative maintenance and roof inspection programs that alert them to potential and active degradation,” wrote the authors of the article, “Time For Resilience.” “Weak links such as roof detachment, corrosion, or other damage could tear off roofing during an enhanced wind event. Such risks need to be mitigated before an event occurs.”

Ready.gov provides resources on disaster planning and management, and also has this section on Business Continuity.