WOW!, what an interesting week of events around the globe and in the U.S.A. In the last seven days the world has witnessed an airline disaster, a major train wreck, a volcanic eruption, earthquakes and a tropical storm develop. It does not matter if the cause is natural, human error or asset failures because the people responsible for asset management and our safety always need to be prepared for the unexpected.

Reviewing the major disasters demonstrates the power of nature and how the failure to observe proper maintenance procedures can have horrific consequences.

Disaster Week Highlights

Asiana Flight 214 June 6, 2013San Francisco, CAPilot error or mechanical TBDPlane destroyed, 2 dead, airport shutdown, flights cancelled
Oil Car Train Wreck June 6, 2013Lac-Mégantic, QuebecBrakes not set or failedEntire city evacuated, 15 and counting dead
Popocatepetl Volcano July 4th – Current43 miles SE of Mexico City, MexicoNatural DisasterAsh, smoke, fire, Mexico City flights cancelled
Tropical Storm Chantal (In progress)Southeast Coast U.S.A.Natural DisasterWind, flooding, erosion, power loss…
5.4 Magnitude EarthquakesJuly 9-10, 2013Putre, Chile, Miyako, JapanNatural DisasterTBD

Although each of these disasters or disasters in the making have different causes, the impact is profound. Whether it is the loss of life or of property, the costs of these events will run into the millions perhaps billions of dollars.

Of the events taking place, two are obviously man-made and perhaps could have been avoided altogether. However, with that said the true cause of both Asiana flight 214 and the train accident in Quebec are still under investigation.

The remaining events are all natural and demonstrate the awesome power of Mother Nature. Natural disasters are unavoidable so there is nothing that can that can be done to prevent them.

The Opportunity to Improve Asset Management

On the other hand, all of these disasters have one thing in common in that they provide an opportunity to learn or improve asset management. The opportunity to improve asset management comes from the experience of the current event and similar events in the past. It is an opportunity for governments, industries, businesses and people to learn.

Asset management for disasters can be grouped into three categories:

Preparation, Reaction and Assessment

  1. Preparation: Preparation refers to
    • Knowing the location and condition of all assets
    • Inspections for operability, weaknesses and other problems
    • Creating an executing a course of action
    • Development of event plan/contingency plans such as alternate flight paths or the use of generators.
  2. Reaction: Reaction refers to
    • Planning the use of maintenance teams, engineers, emergency teams and disaster crews
    • The use of checklists and inspections to determine danger levels or other potential event amplifiers such as a structure about to collapse, flooding or sinkhole development
    • Asset protection by deploying event teams and procedures such as fuel line, plant or transportation shutdowns
    • People protection by deploying event teams such as the National Guard, fire and rescue.
  3. Assessment: Assessment refers to the evaluation of
    • Post event asset inspections
    • Post event investigative reports
    • Secondary dangers such as projected flooding, food, fuel and water resources
    • Determining what worked and what needs improvement

I am sure I could garner a strong reaction by suggesting that the man made events were caused by neglect, terrorism, aliens or greed but the reality is that it does not matter. Once an event is in motion, the professionals that help protect people and assets have to react quickly.

Sadly, as we have all seen before, even these professionals are at risk. From the recent loss of 19 Arizona fire-fighters to the brave souls of 9/11 it is the actions of professionals that save lives and minimize property damage. Therefore it is important to give them the tools they need to do their best.

Our hearts go out to those impacted by the events occurring this week.