Up In Smoke

I started preparing for a cross-industry conference I’m excited to be speaking at this Spring on the topic of “Innovations in Risk Management.”  As you know, I’m a big fan of interdisciplinary applications to improve risk management, and I’ve often made analogies with the transportation (air travel) and medical industries to make my points about financial risk management.  Today, while thinking about different industries’ approach to risk management, I received the following email from the Headmaster at my eldest son’s school (names removed for anonymity):

Dear Parents,Today at around 10 am, we had a small fire at school in the boys bathroom nearest the ****** Room.  The fire occurred close to a plastic device, which emitted a significant amount of smoke, and our alarms sounded.  We evacuated promptly and determined that all of our students and employees were safe and accounted for.  The fire department responded promptly and put out the smoldering remains of the fire.

The fire department began an investigation of the fire, as did the responding police.  I do not have a report yet about the cause of the fire.  Health department representatives also arrived on the scene.  While this activity proceeded, we moved the students into ****** Gym and awaited their instructions.  Pizza was ordered for the Lower School kids, and they returned to their classrooms at around 11:30, where they had lunch.  Near noon, we received clearance to serve Middle School and Upper School lunch at the usual time in the ***** room, and then resumed classes.  We are having the affected area assessed for clean-up purposes and will move promptly to restore it to working order.

Safety is always our paramount concern, and we conduct frequent evacuation drills so we will know how to conduct ourselves in case of a fire.  That practice proved very useful today, and the students handled themselves with patience and grace.  We will continue to investigate the cause of the fire.

Best regards,

Head of School


After I realized that no one was hurt and that everything is OK, it hit me that fire drills are another excellent example of best practices in risk management.  Knowing what to do before an emergency/crisis makes all the difference, and it’s on the list of best practices produced by the Greenwich Roundtable, on which I participated.  I have to remember to thank the Head of School the next time I see him for pointing out to me the obvious example of good risk management.

This will also be a good way to start the presentation at the cross-industry conference.

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