Oroville Dam Repairs Concern Calif. Residents

Construction of a new spillway at the Oroville Dam in northern California—the largest dam in the U.S.—is underway and is expected to be completed sometime in 2018, according to the California Department of Water Resources. The dam replaces the previous spillway, which was damaged by heavy flooding in February.

Problems at the Oroville Dam began, when the dam’s main sluice was damaged after a winter season of record rain and snowfall, following five years of drought. Torrential rainfall caused water levels to rise so quickly that large amounts needed to be released to prevent the dam from rupturing and sending a wall of water to the communities below.

The force of the cascading water was so strong that it created a large hole in the main sluice, requiring the use of an emergency spillway. This safety backup, however, also nearly failed because the dirt spillway, which had never been fortified by concrete, began to erode, increasing the risk of damage to the dam. In anticipation of a possible disaster, almost 200,000 residents living below the dam were temporarily evacuated.

The dam’s new construction has proved to be contentious at times, with residents expressing concern about small cracks that have appeared in the freshly laid concrete. Rainy season is just ahead and residents are anxious about the possibility of another flood.

State officials said cracking is normal, however, and federal regulators agreed that no immediate repairs are necessary, but not everyone is convinced.

“We heard that in 2009 when we saw DWR fixing cracks on the spillway, that it was completely normal, that it was no concern,” Oroville resident Genoa Widener told the Associated Press. “And then we were told to run for our lives. So you telling us that it’s normal is not enough.”

So far, about a third of the spillway has been fully rebuilt, while the rest has been fortified for the winter with plans to finish it next year. The project is expected to cost about  $500 million.

In preparation for the upcoming winter, Lake Oroville was drained about 80 feet below its normal level, providing extra reservoir storage for incoming water from winter rain and spring snowmelt. On Wednesday, the lake was 200 feet (61 meters) below its maximum capacity, the AP said.

Residents are also upset because state officials have closed a scenic road spanning the top of the dam during the construction. They have deferred a decision about whether it will ever be re-opened due to safety concerns. Several residents said the road closure has cut off their access to recreational areas, the AP reported.

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.

Recovery Plans Critical Following Active Shooter Incidents

October has been mired by mass shootings in the United States. Incidents in which four or more people were shot—the criteria for a mass shooting—have occurred 15 times in the last 18 days. The Oct. 18 occurrence at a business park in Maryland, involving an employee who killed three co-workers on-site and injured two more, has increased the interest in workplace violence and active shooter preparedness plans. As previously reported, only 21% of U.S businesses surveyed felt they were prepared to manage an active shooter situation. And while preventative plans are priorities – and rightfully so – businesses should also consider how to appropriately handle their aftermath.

According to a recent white paper published by Everbridge, Active Shooter Incident Consequence Management and the Roadmap to Recovery, how a company manages the hours, days and weeks following such a crisis is vital for its operations and employees’ well-being. The study offers a four-phase approach for businesses to use following a violent incident:

Immediate Response/Pre-Recovery, which occurs in the minutes and hours following a crisis and when life safety and survival are the top priorities. Accountability, family reunification and media management are additional critical tasks once authorities have secured the workplace and crime scene.

Early Recovery, the most intensive phase, comprises the “hours-to-days along the incident timeline” that sees company managers liaising with hospitals, offering mental health support through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), addressing human resources concerns and invoking the business continuity plan, among other important actions.

Mid-Recovery can be in the week-to-months following an active shooting incident, and is often when some sense of normalcy returns to the workplace and business operations. During this time, there may be some criminal or civil litigation underway and it is the “reasonable time frame” to create an After-Action Report (AAR) to reassess the incident and develop a corrective plan or update the current one. It is also the time to begin planning the one-year anniversary with a high level of employee involvement, which “is an important milestone in individual and organizational recovery, but can also be complicated and emotional.”

Long-Term Recovery is marked by the one-year anniversary and beyond, although “the physical and emotional impact of an active shooter incident can linger for decades, and sometimes an entire lifetime.” According to the report, mass shootings represent the greatest risk for acute traumatic stress disorders among the affected, compared against other types of critical incidents, like natural disasters.

In the report, author Steve Crimando says: “Crisis events are moments of truth: employees, the community, key stakeholders and the media will remember how you handled the incident for a very long time. It is important to prepare for the complex post-shooting environment well before the first shot is fired.”

Between 2014 and 2015, the U.S. experienced nearly six times as many active shooter incidents as it did between 2000 and 2001, according to the FBI.

For tips on developing an active shooter plan, visit Risk Management magazine.

RIMS Legislative Summit 2017: Focus on Flood

WASHINGTON—The RIMS Legislative Summit kicked off on Wednesday in Washington, D.C. with a panel lead by Congressional office staff.

Panelists included: Democratic Staff in the U.S. House of Representatives; Jason Tuber, Senior Advisor to Senator Menendez (D-NJ); Ed Skala, Deputy Staff Director for the House Financial Services Committee; and Brandon Beall, Professional Staff Member, Office of Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs; as well as Lisa Peto, chief counsel for the Financial Services Committee.

The focus was the once-again looming expiration of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The program that was set to expire in September, but was saved with a temporary extension now set to expire again on Dec. 8.

The panelists, each of whom began with the disclaimer that these were their opinions and not the opinions of their office, came to a consensus that a new NFIP was critical, that a gap in coverage is certainly not ideal and they acknowledged that their offices were working on a bi-partisan resolution.

Some of the major concerns discussed were:

  • Funding—who will fund the NFIP? If the NFIP expires or ceases to exist would the burden fall on the taxpayer and then ultimately on government anyway? Should excess flood coverage be privatized? There was also discussion on whether mandating states to offer certain protections for flood exposure would help the situation.
  • Accessibility and Affordability—what measures must be included in the new bill to not only make sure flood insurance is available but that it is available at an affordable price?
  • Residential vs. Commercial—The idea was discussed as to whether there should ultimately be two versions of the NFIP that separate residential and small businesses from large commercial businesses. It was noted that large commercial businesses might have flood coverage elsewhere or are better funded to retain some risk and, as such, should have the opportunity to opt out. This would spur new challenges to determine what qualifies a business as small or large (i.e., an online enterprise that generates considerable revenue but operates out of someone’s basement).
  • Risk Mitigation—Should risk mitigation be a part of the final bill? Incentives for both the insurer and the insured would support organizations that practice good risk management. The argument was made, however, that not all residents and not all businesses have the funds for risk management. For example, not everyone has the money in the bank to raise the height of a house or storefront.

Jim McIntyre, RIMS Washington, D.C. counsel and chair of McIntyre & Lemon stated, “It is probable that we’re looking at another extension come December. Unfortunately for the National Flood Insurance Program, bills regarding trade, healthcare and immigration will take precedent at the moment and [the NFIP] might have to wait a bit longer.”

On Day two of the summit, about 50 RIMS members descended on Capitol Hill for meetings with congressional leaders. The goal was to share RIMS priorities for a long-term National Flood Insurance Program.