If life were a movie, risk managers would have to plan accordingly. Here are a few movies to challenge the skills, nerves, and patience of even the best property risk managers.
In 1984, director Ivan Reitman introduced the world to the Ghostbusters, the paranormal investigators and eliminators who work to save New York City from supernatural takeover by the evil entity, Zuul.
While the Ghostbusters spend the film rescuing Manhattan, their reputations, and Peter Venkman’s love-life, what they really need is a good risk manager to guide them — particularly in their property purchasing decisions. When Peter, Ray and Egon are first shown the firehouse that becomes the future Ghostbusters HQ, Egon notes issues with the building, ranging from structural fatigue to substandard wiring, ultimately determining, “This place should be condemned.” The Ghostbusters’ business vehicle, a hearse, requires similar levels of upkeep to be roadworthy. A smart risk manager would have pointed out the insurance on both the firehouse and vehicle would be astronomical, unless certain risks were mitigated, which would require significant investment. Of course, a smart risk manager would also point out that no insurance company would be likely to take on the risk of a property where the business not only housed a containment unit for ghosts, but four pieces of equipment bearing unlicensed nuclear reactors. A building’s purpose is an important detail that insurance companies use to calculate risk. Our heroes’ property rates would have been through the roof.
The 1999 comedy from Mike Judge stands as a cult classic for most office workers. It follows three unhappy employees at a software company called Initech who decide to plant a computer virus that can siphon off corporate funds into a bank account they control. Of course, the plan has some flaws, and it spirals toward a fiery ending that would give any risk manager a serious case of the Mondays.
In the case of Office Space, risk managers would not only need to be concerned with cyber risk and employee theft, but a fire that could lead to extensive property damage. Fire is a very real fear for many risk managers. It’s up to them to take mitigation seriously and identify potential hazards. Questions the risk manager at Initech should have been asking: “What’s our level of exposure?” “Can the risk be reduced or eliminated?” “How do we monitor the situation?” “Did I just hear that Milton guy threaten to burn the building down?” To deal with the threat of fire, a risk manager can put safety measures in place, including fire doors, sprinkler systems, accessible extinguishers, and enhanced employee training. It also probably wouldn’t hurt looping in HR, so they can handle a more empathetic policy toward employees keeping personal items, like their favorite red Swingline stapler, on their desks.
The Blues Brothers
In the 1980 film The Blues Brothers, directed by John Landis, ex-con blues bandleaders Jake and Elwood Blues, lead a merry chase on their musical “Mission from God,” leaving significant destruction in their wake. In one memorable scene, the brothers drive the Bluesmobile through a Chicago-area shopping mall with the police in hot pursuit. A second scene shows their dive apartment turned to rubble, when a jilted girlfriend (Carrie Fisher) blows it up with a rocket launcher. In a final iconic scene, an elaborate police chase leads to the smashing of 103 squad cars, a record for on-screen vehicular destruction during the movie’s era.
While no risk manager could anticipate the antics leading to the amount of property damage that follows Jake and Elwood Blues, there are some mitigation procedures that could help reduce peril and ease reporting for insurance purposes. For example, a vehicular police chase inside a mall might be hard to predict, but installing shatter-resistant glass in shop windows would help improve shopper safety during unexpected exchanges of indoor gunfire. While much of Elwood Blues’ tenement needs to be reconstructed after Carrie Fisher’s character blows it up, a smart risk manager would have data on the property — preferably kept in an off-site risk management system — listing the building’s primary and secondary COPE details and any reproduction or replacement cost values. If it were a building of historic significance, having it insured for reproduction costs instead of simply replacement could make a big difference in the owner’s insurance coverage payouts. Similarly, if the squad cars were documented thoroughly in a property vehicle risk management system with associated insurance policy data, filing those insurance claims for 103 damaged police cars would be a much quicker and easier task.
The Day After Tomorrow
This 2004 disaster film from Roland Emmerich is a collection of environmental catastrophes, all wrapped up into one terrifying movie. Massive superstorms brought on by the damaging effects of climate change lead to mass destruction carried out by one very mad, bad Mother Nature.
Risk management meets its match with The Day After Tomorrow. To prepare for property damage on that scale, there are many considerations. For one, in the event of a total loss, risk managers want to be sure they can still access important documentation like property data, building images, and insurable values. Storing this information in a cloud-based software solution allows the data to be accessible from anywhere with an internet connection. This makes it a bit easier to file claims with insurance carriers or FEMA for those times it seems no place is safe.
Based on a story by Stephen King, this claustrophobic horror movie from 2007 closes in on a group of people inside a suburban grocery store. Outside the store, a weird mist has unleashed a collection of massive Lovecraftian beasties intent on tearing apart the town and killing off all of its residents.
Risk managers should weight all potential hazards when establishing a plan, but where do over-sized, otherworldly bug-creatures fit in? The black swan event in The Mist can be classified as a catastrophe because it carries financial, operational and human losses. To prepare for an event like this, risk managers should consider FEMA’s National Planning Scenarios. These scenarios cover everything from rare occurrences like biological and chemical attacks to severe natural disasters. Creating and practicing plans to respond to various threats can help ensure risk managers and their colleagues are prepared, should a scenario ever need to be activated. Risk managers may struggle a bit, though, to find in-office staff eager to participate in safety drills replicating battle with angry, giant insects.
A 2011 medical thriller from Steven Soderbergh, this flick follows a collection of different people involved with a fatal pandemic that’s killed off millions of people around the globe. A race to find a vaccine proves complicated for several scientists who are attempting to beat the clock to save the world.
Global disease outbreak has been on the minds of many risk managers these days. But prior to COVID-19, outbreaks had most often been regional, affecting one area before spreading slowly. FEMA’s National Planning Scenarios are a consideration here, as well. FEMA has outlined plans for biological outbreaks or attacks. For risk managers, it’s important to understand what an interruption in business means to the company and then establish potential plans to maintain business continuity. Options like allowing employees to work remotely, moving the entire office location, making testing available to all staff, etc., have become the answer for COVID-19 in many businesses and could apply here, as well.
Jan de Bont directed this 1996 disaster film about a group of storm chasers tracking tornadoes through Oklahoma, a state very familiar with these types of natural catastrophes. The goal of the team is to launch an instrument allowing further research of tornadoes. It won’t be easy to get close to the storm, though.
Any risk manager working in Oklahoma – where Twister is set – has the threat of tornadoes high on their radar. After all, the state averages about 57 per year. Maintaining up-to-date insurable values and secondary COPE data are critical for risk managers in tornado alley. COPE data is essential in identifying the possible risks a structure might face in a tornado. An onsite insurance appraisal can help with the collection of this data and get an organization well on its way to being properly insured.
And the Fade…
Top-notch risk managers consider all the possibilities that come with keeping their organization up and running. Sure, over-loaded ghost-disposal technology, gargantuan storms and giant killer insects are not exactly everyday occurrences, but good risk managers know how to play through many scenarios. Having a plan and policy in place is important. It can help reduce the impact of a risk occurrence and increase the stability of your organization, no matter how you cut it.