H. Felix Kloman – Mosquitoes and Handguns

Felix Kloman is to risk management what Peter Drucker is to management. A legend. I only hope to do this risk thing as long as Mr. Kloman and one day earn a fraction of his rock star status.

Mr. Kloman retired a few years ago and unfortunately his Risk Management Reports ended as well. Then the riskports.com web site went down and I feared his great work had been lost in cyberspace. But alas, I just found his work siting in a different domain. Aces!

The following was written by Mr. Kloman in November 1996 and echos the ideas proposed in my Dishwasher Risk Management article from last week. I hope that by re-posting here, many of you will seek out Mr. Kloman’s work, read and learn or go to Amazon.com and buy his books.

No, I do not propose hunting mosquitoes with a .45, as pleasurable as it might be to obliterate an insect that has just sucked my blood. The connection comes from the recent scare about mosquito-carried Eastern Equine Encephalitis in Rhode Island and southeastern Connecticut. Scientists found mosquitoes contaminated with EEE, a disease that may be 50% fatal to human beings. A furor close to panic ensued. The governors of both states flew to the area, newspapers and other politicians called for immediate action, administrators shortened school days and curtailed sports and planes were sent aloft to spraying breeding grounds. To date, there have been no reports of human infection, much less death, but hundreds of thousands of dollars have been thrown at this presumed problem.

It is a perfect example of misapplied risk management. A scare headline provokes a panic. We feel powerless in the face of a potential killer. We then over-react, wasting time and valuable resources.

During the same week when the EEE situation was reported, I read of at least two people in the area killed by handguns and numerous automobile fatalities. Unfortunately we seem inured to these deaths, while frightened out of our minds by something that hasn’t happened.

We probably can’t do much about this predictable response. The immediate and the unknown take precedence over more common, if more dangerous, situations. While our resources should probably be directed toward the control of handguns and the reduction of highway carnage, we inevitably misapply them on the appearance of a dramatic headline.

This is an importance lesson for risk managers: what the public fears may drive initial responses that prove to be wrong in light of cold, rational analysis.


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