Paying it Forward: Industry Leaders Celebrate at Spencer Gala

Every year in September, leaders in the insurance world celebrate the profession and show their support for the next generation of risk management and insurance professionals. This year, close to 700 executives made their way to the Spencer Educational Foundation’s 9th Annual Gala on Thursday night at the New York Hilton Midtown. Nearly $1 million in donations were accepted at the event, a critical fundraising initiative for the Foundation. Proceeds will directly fund grant, scholarship and internship programs for undergraduate and graduate students who are pursuing careers in the field.

“The Gala is a wonderful reminder of just how generous and passionate professionals in this industry are,” said Ron Davis, executive vice president at Zurich and Spencer Educational Foundation chairman. “Tonight we’re celebrating the profession that has afforded us so much by giving back and creating meaningful opportunities for future risk professionals.”

The Gala honored 2017 Spencer Scholars Jayde Lim Ah Tock, a junior from Temple University, and James Pappas, a senior at St. John’s University. “Being a Spencer Scholar has allowed me to focus on my university’s program,” Tock said. “I want to thank the donors for allowing me to pursue something that is so important to me.”

When speaking about the support Spencer provided, Pappas said he is now “confident, optimistic and energized” about his future and knows he is “joining an amazing industry that truly makes a difference.”

Among the industry leaders in attendance were honorees Joseph Tocco, chief executive, north America insurance at XL Catlin, and Michael Rice, chief executive officer at JLT Specialty USA. Both are longtime Spencer supporters and were recognized for their efforts to move the Foundation’s mission forward.

The night’s festivities concluded with remarks from the honorees whose comments focused on the industry’s talent gap and the aging risk management workforce.

“The world needs our industry and our industry needs to attract and develop new talent,” Rice said. “Spencer is a wonderful conduit that allows us to celebrate this talent and the future of the profession.”

Tocco added, “I’m proud to be in an industry that places so much energy on education. Enlisting the next generation of risk professionals is more imperative now than ever before. We need to make “risk management” students’ first choice and not a profession by accident.”

Students around the world have benefited from Spencer funding. Since its inception, the charitable nonprofit has awarded 970 scholarships totaling about $6.4 million, and $3.25 million in grants to universities and professional institutions for educational programs and conferences.

Beware of Fire Ants During Hurricane Cleanup

While Texas, Florida and other states dry out from the trillions of gallons of water dumped by Hurricanes Harvey and Irene, there is much to be done and many hazards to watch out for when clearing trees and removing soggy remains from homes and offices.

While cleaning up outdoors, people should keep in mind that many animals are also displaced. These include 20 species of snakes (in Texas), alligators, deer and raccoons, according to the Washington Post.

What they may not be on the lookout for, however, are floating rafts of fire ants, which have a painful, itchy sting, Smithsonian reported. The ants, which send some 25,000 people to the hospital each year, can be found in a number of states, including Texas, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and California. They have a way of coping with large amounts of water by clinging to each other and forming floating rafts that can contain 500,000 or more fire ants.
Photo: ScienceNews

These rafts are actually floating colonies protecting the queen, which is in the middle. They can survive for weeks until they find a dry surface—any dry surface.

According to Popular Science:

Normal ants bite and then spray acid on the new wound, but fire ants are much worse. They bite, hold on, and inject a venom containing 46 different proteins, including poisons that sometimes affect the nervous system. They also have a more brutal attack pattern than many social insects. If you knock over a beehive, not all the bees will come after you—most colonies have a few dedicated warriors to protect the clan. When fire ants are disturbed, however, they all attack. About one in every hundred people will have a full-body response to the stings, such as an allergic reaction or even hallucinations.

As Eric Chaney at the Weather Channel warns, the ants can remain a problem even after the floodwaters recede and it is easy to accidently happen upon them, hunkered down amidst debris piles. According to the Imported Fire Ant Research and Management Project, “Laundry piles are convenient places that present lots of tunnels for the ants. They may be attracted to moisture or food residue or oils on soiled clothing. Often, reports of ants in laundry occur following a flood.”

Those venturing into flood waters are advised to wear rubber boots, cuffed gloves and protective rain gear to keep ants off their skin. Popular Science recommends spraying ant rafts with their kryptonite—soapy water—which can cause them to sink.

Post-Harvey Lessons For Chemical Plant Managers

One of the many hazards exposed by Hurricane Harvey occurred in Crosby, Texas, when the Arkema chemical plant suffered fires and small explosions on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1. Floodwaters caused the fires by penetrating the facility and shutting down the cooling systems designed to stabilize 500,000 pounds of highly flammable materials inside. This ultimately caused a mandatory evacuation for all residents within a 1.5-mile radius of the plant. Local news outlets reported that Arkema had no plan in place for six feet of flooding and its last risk assessment was submitted in 2013.

With Hurricane Irma being tracked at 175 miles per hour in the Caribbean, it is possible that chemical plants in the path of destruction—including Florida and the southeastern United States—may face a similar scenario. Regardless of the location of your plant, here are some tips that can help reduce potential business interruption and physical injury during a major natural disaster:
Update your risk assessment. Use Harvey as a catalyst to revisit your risk assessment, especially since new information has emerged about the potential for natural hazards or disasters that can trigger a chemical accident. As recently discussed, the best assessments do more than just feature a column of checked boxes to achieve an organization’s objectives and mitigate business interruption. “They prioritize top risks, assign risk ownership, and most critically, integrate risk management and accountability into front line business decision-making,” says Dean Simone, PWC’s U.S., Asia-Pacific, and Americas Cluster Risk Assurance Leader.

Submit the assessment to the EPA or other government-appointed body, like your state’s Commission on Environmental Quality. Your facility needs to be able to withstand significant damage to prevent further incidents and public harm. The feedback will hopefully provide some useful criticism to ensure public safety and business continuity.

According to ABC’s Houston affiliate:

In at least one of Arkema’s hazard mitigation plans filed with the federal government, plant officials acknowledged that flooding is a risk. The site sits in a FEMA “high-risk” floodplain that has flooded in the past, leading to a power failure. That time, the site only had six inches of water, a former plant worker said.

It was later revealed in an internal company timeline of events that Arkema did not move temperature-sensitive chemicals via refrigerated trucks and instead banked on its two backup systems, which failed. It seems certain that Arkema will have to consider at least six feet of floodwater when it revises its plan.

Institute an emergency plant management system. This may be included in your company’s risk assessment, and it is important that your employees also know the protocol when it comes to disaster prevention. This includes establishing the lines of authority and communication while on-site and during a catastrophe. OSHA provides guidance for chemical plant management in the event of a mass disaster.

Develop public-facing communications plans. Your communications team, led by an executive officer, should have advisory plans in place in anticipation of, during and following an emergency. The good news is that you don’t have to draft them from scratch. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers communications worksheets, templates and guides dedicated to water, sanitation and hygiene-related emergencies and outbreaks. You can customize these documents to reflect your organization’s capabilities and to alert nearby residents and businesses.

Be sure to issue advisories through all possible outlets, including social media. One thing Arkema did correctly was send press releases, incident statements and alerts via Twitter in addition to traditional outlets in order to keep as many people informed as possible.

Communicate with local authorities and emergency workers. All energy plants impact their local communities, surrounding areas and ecosystems. Your company’s hazard plans should be communicated to local fire and police departments and hospitals. This ensures that emergency workers know the potential dangers your plant faces in the event of a disaster and the steps you plan to take to mitigate them.

Ensuring Your Company’s Disaster Relief Donations Are Well Received

With Hurricane Harvey’s effects being felt in Texas and Louisiana for some time to come, businesses may want to help victims by making corporate donations. Corporate decision-makers should carefully consider ways to contribute, since some recent post-disaster efforts have not helped as intended.

Depending on your industry and your company’s size, you may have access to supplies or a service that will be useful to victims and aid workers. The New York Times recently listed the local organizations that will accept certain donations. Your efforts can be coordinated with an accredited organization or the local government to determine whether your donations qualify.

Risk management and insurance professionals who would like to help Harvey victims directly can visit the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation’s (IICF) IICF Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief Fund. The fund was established in response to a surge of inquiries from its community as to how it can help. The fund has already received $80,000 in commitments, and the IICF will forward all contributions to local nonprofits assisting victims in the area, including the American Red Cross and specifically its Hurricane Harvey disaster fund.

During catastrophes, experts generally encourage these sorts of finance-based efforts in lieu of sending tangible items without a partnership with a local non-profit. Many organizations suggest that it is best to let the aid workers on the ground use their allocated funds to get necessity items like water, toiletries and food. In its Tips For Giving In Times Of Crisis page, CharityNavigator.org dissuades companies from sending supplies ad hoc:

“[This] type of philanthropy is simply not practical or efficient. Even if mail could get to an impacted region, no one is set up to receive these goods, much less organize and distribute them to the victims.”

It has been well documented that donations of tangible items – especially used ones – can cause unintended problems. Some never reach those in need and eventually wind up in landfills; and certain used clothes, like old shoes and Halloween costumes, might insult survivors.

According to Kansas disaster response coordinator Hollie Tapley, about 75% of donated goods will go to waste despite the donors’ good intentions. “Money is the best way because we know culturally what people need,” Tapley told Kansas State Network before Harvey hit Texas. “One group needs something totally different than another group.”

Blood donations are always in high demand following a disaster and national blood banks sometimes hold emergency drives to allocate blood to the affected areas, which might not have the resources to hold their own. If you are determined to reach the affected area, confirm those details with the donation center’s organizer. Bloodsource’s donation locations can be found on the group’s website. The Red Cross also provides information for potential donors online.