Monday, August 9, 2010

Chertoff on Risk Management

A few years ago, then Homeland security secretary Michael Chertoff spoke at a Wharton Leadership Lecture regarding the government’s role in managing risk. In “Chertoff on the Government’s Role in Managing Risk—Both Natural and Man-made” Wharton authors quote Chertoff as acknowledging that “we have not always handled risk properly”

Such events as the 9/11 attacks, Hurricane Katrina, and the recent financial crisis all came with warnings of one nature or another. Even so, leaders at multiple levels in various agencies failed to “prevent or reduce our vulnerability to them.”

We have our own stories in wildland fire. We preach about lessons learned and risk management, but do we “walk the talk”? Do we become complacent with risk management because we’ve never been caught in a compromising situation on the fireline? Chertoff spoke of homeowners who seek assistance to rebuild in flood-prone areas. The wildland fire service deals with the same situations when homeowners build and rebuild in fire-prone areas.

The article also touches upon regulating risk management. With or without regulation, students of fire must make a conscious effort to properly mitigate risk and lead by example.

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