Pop the popcorn and heat the cocoa! As the holidays approach, it’s time to gather together and watch those movies that have become an integral part of many families’ end-of-year traditions. Of course, when you look at them from a risk management perspective, some of them take on a whole new light. So pull up a comfy chair under the warm glow of the leg lamp fireplace, as we examine just a few festive flicks…
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Twice before, Clark Griswold proved that sensible risk mediation is really not his style, and this Christmas edition of his exploits is no exception. Here, all Clark wants for Christmas is for his extended family to have the hap-hap-happiest holiday ever — and to rejoice in the news of a future in-ground swimming pool paid for by his annual Christmas bonus. But amid retina-burning Christmas light displays and unexpected visitors of both the human and four-legged kind, Clark discovers that Griswoldian perfection is the enemy of good… That corporate greed can turn sizable bonuses to jelly… And that a well-meaning cousin-in-law with a steel plate in his head probably should be monitored more closely.
Due to Griswold’s elaborate annual seasonal display needs, a wise risk manager would suggest Clark trade the spaghetti tangle of extension cords in his home for a more permanent and updated electrical system following ISO construction standards. To assist when stogey-smoking uncles and wire-chewing cats accidentally set the living room on fire, smoke alarms, fire extinguishers, and even a sprinkler system should be installed. (The latter may seem excessive for a private home but, given the Griswold family’s track record of insurance claims, it’s likely worth considering.) Clark should detail the types of windows he has installed, so he can report them accurately to his insurance company for replacement once the SWAT team is done kicking them in. And he should take some time to ensure his property isn’t riddled with potential wind missiles like plastic Santas or giant ice blocks, which could become propellant and damage property nearby. Lastly, Clark is already aware of the illegality of dumping waste from a recreational vehicle into a storm sewer. So more stringent control of his guests’ behaviors could head off local fines and other hazards there.
In this 2003 film, Buddy (played by Will Ferrell) is a human man who’s grown up at the North Pole raised by Christmas elves. Finally uncovering the truth of his origins, he quests to New York City to find his real father. While Buddy explores new relationships and the Big Apple (and learns important life lessons, like gum stuck to a subway railing is not there for snacking), Christmas spirit flounders in the cynical city. Now it’s up to Buddy and his new family and friends to generate enough Christmas cheer to power Santa’s stranded sleigh and save Christmas.
The Risk Management issues in Elf include some challenges at the root of elf culture. With tree-based cookie production mentioned as one of the main forms of elf employment, out-of-control oven fires are a top cause of insurance claims in the society. More rigorous safety standards for the construction of cookie plants are likely in order, including facilities built using more non-combustible materials, following ISO construction classifications. A wise risk manager might also recommend the addition of dry-pipe sprinkler systems to prevent future conflagration damage and avoid pipe-freeze in the frigid North Pole temperatures.
Human risk challenges, however, are also present in the film. For example, Buddy’s first-hand knowledge of the real Santa triggers a brawl with a disrespected department store Santa, resulting in unsafe work conditions and significant store property damage. More rigorous seasonal employee screening would potentially reduce conflict, resulting in fewer injuries and subsequent Worker’s Compensation claims. It would also reduce insurance claims for property damage.
Full Court Miracle
Alex Schlotsky dreams of being a professional basketball player. Unfortunately, his school basketball team at Philadelphia Hebrew Academy is an on-court disaster. Alex believes some strong leadership is all the players really need — leadership like Judah Maccabee who drove out the Seleucid Greeks from Israel back in 167-160BCE, as he learned in class. And he believes he discovers this Judah on a public basketball court in the guise of Lamont Carr, a former point guard for the Virginia Cavaliers. Lamont, who is striving to overcome injured knees and homelessness and earn his place on the Philadelphia 76ers, is not looking to become a role model for some soft, uncoordinated schoolboys. But as he begins guiding and motivating the team into the playoffs, other complications arise until it becomes clear it will take a true Hanukkah miracle for the Academy’s Lions to emerge triumphant.
Risk management is, amusingly enough, built right into this film. When the school principal, Mrs. Klein, discovers the boys are being trained by a stranger on public courts, she brings it straight to the Rabbi for risk mediation. Rabbi Lewis solves the problem by getting to know Lamont and letting him train the children at the school gym as a part-time employee. It’s only when school insurance requires home addresses for employees that Lamont’s current homelessness becomes a serious roadblock. Initially, Lamont fills out the application with a fake address. But as quick-thinking Alex connects his real-estate developer father with his beloved coach, Lamont gains lodging and a legal home address in exchange for some DIY. Crisis averted! If only defeating their team’s arch-enemies, the Warriors, was so easy!
A Christmas Story
Nine-year-old Ralphie Parker wants nothing more than a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas in 1940. But school bullies, scary dimestore Santas, flukey furnaces, stolen turkey, leg lamps, and Christmas essays converge to potentially transform his simple holiday dream into one long Pink Nightmare.
Some kids have visions of sugar plums that dance in their heads; our Ralphie imagines saving his quivering family from bands of marauders using his trusty Red Ryder BB gun, courtesy of Santa. But what if Santa doesn’t come through? Risk management might suggest installing a modest home security system to keep Black Bart and his creeping marauders at bay. Better door security and formalized locking procedures would also ensure the safety of the household turkey from the salivating jaws of the neighboring Bumpus hounds. Installing more power outlets and upgrading the fuse box could assist with power fluctuations caused by the overload of Christmas décor and a certain “fra-gee-lay” Major Award. Regular professional furnace maintenance could also assist with the potential fire and air quality hazards of the furnace “clinkers,” regularly battled by Ralphie’s father in the film.
New York cop John McClane travels to California for a potential Christmas reconciliation with his separated wife, Holly Genera, and his kids. But, as he and Holly connect at the Nakatomi Plaza Christmas party, the corporate offices are overrun by an international group of terrorists determined to crack the vault. Now McClane must pull out all the stops to eliminate the threat and rescue the hostages before this Silent Night becomes a more violent one.
Okay, so it’s debatable whether this is a Christmas movie or not. (Though it is.) But it’s hard to argue that some extra risk management wouldn’t have helped John McClane save the day a little bit sooner — or at least slow the baddies down. For example, when Hans Gruber’s men shoot the lobby security guard and take over his computer, they access his systems right away — no username, password or other verification required to fully-engage with any of it. With cybercrime a leading concern for businesses, a little more data security on the IT side might ensure this process isn’t quite so open and easy. And while the security guard’s badge is then used to swipe into various off-limits areas in the building, it seems the entire elevator and lighting system is in one room, unsecured. Consistent security procedures throughout the building would, under everyday circumstances, prevent non-employees from accessing the building’s core functions. As far as property damage goes, many sections of the building are shot up during the film, several of them still under construction. A thoughtful risk manager might have already gathered detailed information on the building’s COPE and ISO classification features, and stored them in property risk management software in off-site servers, to ensure this information could be shared with the insurance company. Another recommendation for the building is to replace standard internal windows with bullet-resistant security glass. While this is admittedly overkill in most office buildings, it would support employee safety and be a gift to John McClane’s poor bare feet.
We Wish You Holidays Full of Joy and Free of Risk!
We hope you had fun with our risk management in holiday movies post. May the rest of your December be safe, and 2022 be a wonderful year ahead.