I just received an interesting note from my friend and colleague, Rocky Lopes. It seems that the recent 3.6 earthquake in Maryland rattled a bit more than windows. Here in California, we use 5.0 earthquakes to stir our coffee, so a 3.6 would probably not be noticed in most places. However, Maryland rarely gets earthquakes, so this one got their attention. Unfortunately, according to Rocky, a lot of the information and comments making the rounds after the temblor were based on what we call disaster mythology - something very akin to folklore. These included things like the old "stand in the door" response. On the plus side, Rocky was asked to appear on a local news show and did his best to correct some of the misinformation.
There are a couple of lessons here. The first is that we truly have to be all-hazards in our planning. As we do our risk analysis, we should plan not only for the most likely event but for other possible events as well and that planning should include pre-scripted public safety announcements. Secondly, in this age of rapid communications, we need to get our message out to the public almost immediately. We can't afford to wait and then try to counter rumors and old folk tales.
Here's another for the "you can't make this stuff up" category.
One of the basics of liability is the concept that if an event is foreseeable, you need to have at least considered it in your planning. This usually comes down to proving whether or not an event was foreseeable, a question usually decided by a jury. To prove foreseeability, attorneys will usually go after things like company memos, emails between executives, studies and so forth.
So let's suppose you're sitting on a jury deciding whether BP's oil spill was foreseeable. BP, of course, is arguing that it was not. Then the plaintiff's attorney trots out the following:
Yes, there it is - a 30 year old board game from BP where four players compete to be the first to make the big bucks. One of the hazards is: "Blow-out! Rig damaged. Oil slick cleanup costs. Pay $1 million."
There are two lessons here for us. As I have said repeatedly, there really is nothing new under the sun. Any disaster you can come up with has happened at some point in history (okay, you wise guys, maybe not extraterrestrial invasion, unless you're fan of Erich von Daniken), so everything really is foreseeable. Secondly, the Internet never, ever forgets!