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Incorporate the principles of risk management

ANDREWS AFB, Md. -- More and more people are being told to incorporate the principles of risk management into their daily lives. 

Historically, many mishaps outside of the Air Force have been the tragic results of complacency and carelessness. We are still experiencing "dumb" mishaps because people don't fully consider the consequences of their actions or stop to think before they engage in some activity. These mishaps cost the Air Force the loss of millions of dollars and, more importantly, the loss of friends, family members and co-workers. 

To stem the losses of aircraft and aircrew, the Air Force adopted the concept of Operational Risk Management. This concept has been in the Air Force flying culture for well over a decade now and has proven very beneficial. For those unfamiliar with ORM, it is a systematic, analytical tool which identifies and mitigates the inherent risks associated with any flight operation. The formal ORM process is comprised of six steps, which are as follows: 

1. Identify the hazards 

2. Assess the risks 

3. Analyze risk control measures 

4. Make control decisions 

5. Implement risk controls 

6. Supervise and review 

Often, for flyers, this process involves filling out a worksheet and identifying those areas with the greatest risk and then changing the plan or conducting some other action to lessen the risk. For example, a training flight involves numerous difficult events. As a result of proper application of ORM, a person could alter the flight to eliminate a few of the events and focus on those most critical for that crew on that day. 

No one expects people to fill out an ORM worksheet or run a six-step checklist for everything they do in life. What I am asking people to do this summer is think about what they are going to do, make a conscious decision on their course of action, follow through on that action and be prepared to adjust plans as the situation changes. 

Well, people say, they do this all the time, isn't it just "common sense." Yes, to a limited extent. There is a certain amount of sizing up of the situation and making predictions based upon "gut feeling" or "common sense" that goes on every day. People tend to make the best guess and let the chips fall where they may. Karen Kinkle, the Air Force ORM program manager in 1996 said it best, "Operational Risk Management isn't rocket science, but it is more than just common sense. It's a systematic approach to making decisions by balancing risk against the benefits to be gained in any given situation and then choosing the best course of action." Risk management is a more systematic refinement of the decision making process. It attempts to quantify the known risk factors, allowing a person to understand what they are dealing with in a given situation, and determine at what point the operation subjects them to the highest risk potential. Again, people don't have to get out the checklist every time they put the car into drive. But if they are starting a long trip at night, in the rain and have just worked a 12-hour shift, consciously thinking about this situation beforehand and applying good risk management may lead them to change the situation. Something as simple as leaving the next morning or sharing the driving with a friend or relative may save their life. 

Note that this does not eliminate all risk, nor is that the goal of risk management. There is risk involved with everything in life. The goal is to manage risk, such that unnecessary risks are eliminated and an acceptable risk level is attained. A principle of ORM is that risks may be accepted when a decision maker at the appropriate level determines that the benefits derived are greater than the cost of those risks. Each person is the decision maker for their life. 

So what's the bottom line? The goal of the 101 Critical Days of Summer Campaign is for you to think about the upcoming activities over the next 101 days and apply some risk management principles. To stop and think, before acting. Have a safe and wonderful summer!
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