August 18, 2016
Hard Lessons From the Louisiana Flooding
by Mike Manes
Exercise this risk-management discipline: Imagine that 70% of your city is gone tomorrow? What do you do?
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” Charles Dickens, “A Tale of Two Cities”
On Aug. 12, 2016, it was the best of times in Denham Springs, (Livingston Parish) LA. By Monday, Aug. 15, 2015, it was the worst of times.
Denham Springs was a community of 10,000-plus people in a parish of 132,000. Driving your car through Main Street, you’d see small-town America. Driving through the suburbs, you’d discover a booming town. On Aug. 12, Denham Springs was a bedroom community for Baton Rouge, LA. It had it all — great schools, young families, new homes and commercial developments everywhere. You’d agree — it was the best of times.
After three days and 30 inches of rain, you could still drive through the town — by boat. It was the worst of times.
From the Livingston Parish News website: “The 30-inch downpour that has devastated nearly 90% of Denham Springs and flooded more than 70% of Livingston Parish has led NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] to classify the rain event as a once-in-every 500-year flood.
For Livingston Parish, it may have exceeded the statistics of even the 500-year event.
In a parish in which an estimated 40,000 homes were flooded — and 90% of them considered possibly a “total loss” in Denham Springs — observers from NOAA believe the damage, based on population and statistics, could surpass the devastation New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast suffered in Hurricane Katrina.”
If you can’t wrap your head around such devastation, remember the difference between New York City on Sept. 10, 2001, and on Sept. 11. Think about New Orleans, which was not destroyed by wind but rather by water. Think Flint, MI, where failed decision making and neglect resulted in destruction of the “water” and severe damage to the health and the future of her citizens. Drive through your town and imagine 70% of it wiped out. I could go on, but I won’t — I assume you get the picture.
Now let’s leave the flood waters of Louisiana and move back to your reality. You are a successful professional or a business owner. Things are going great or, at least, good enough. You are in your comfort zone.
If you’re in the business of risk or insurance, you talk constantly about risk management. In my simple mind, risk is uncertainty. Uncertainty is the difference between good things and bad things happening. Management is control. Risk management is control of uncertainty. This is all about maximizing the good and minimizing the bad in our clients’ lives.
Be selfish. Exercise this risk management process and discipline on your own shop and your own future. I’d ask you to do one thing differently: Over the next few paragraphs, measure your reality not as the wild-eyed, optimistic, successful entrepreneur you are but measure it in the hard reality of “misery.”
Consider what would happen if you and your agency failed to open today because (like in Denham Springs) water has risen to the ceiling of your office and to the ceiling of 70% of the homes and offices in your city. Consider what would happen if the city and the state is on lockdown because terrorists have set off a dirty bomb. You’re driving away but are hearing rumors of the community being uninhabitable for at least three years (think Chernobyl).
What do you do? How do you do it? Where’s your staff? Your future? Your value?
See also: How to Make Flood Insurance Affordable
Draining the swamp is difficult when you’re up to your butt in alligators. Consider: “Job” and “job” are spelled the same way. Most often, when we think of “job” we are thinking of what we do (“a piece of work, especially a specific task done as part of the routine of one’s occupation or for an agreed price.”) When we are going through the worst of times, some think of the other “Job,” “the central figure in an Old Testament parable of the righteous sufferer.”
About 20 years ago, Dave Hamilton spoke at the IIAL convention. He was excellent. His theme was “No bad days.” His message was that we all have bad moments where bad stuff happens — but there are no bad days. He closed with the following, “The merchant of misery is either at your door, has just left or is soon to arrive. Still there are no bad days.” Dave is wise!
If you’re enjoying the “best of times,” thank God. If you’re suffering through the “worst of times,” pray to God. Remember: Life is a streaming video, not a snapshot. Even after a 1,000-year flood, the sun shines again. Be prepared.