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You may have read or heard about the dangerous condition that cropped up in northern California in February at the Oroville Dam. Weeks of heavy rainfall had filled the lake behind the dam to dangerous levels, forcing the release of water to reduce the risk of overflow. In that process a deep crevice opened up in the spillway, threatening to spread and undermine the spillway and dam itself, with potentially catastrophic consequences. Evacuation orders were issued for about 200,000 residents along the Feather River, although they were lifted a short time later.
This incident highlights a real issue for business owners and risk managers posed by the deteriorated condition of our nation’s infrastructure. In their most recent report, which they issue every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave America’s infrastructure an overall rating of D+ (unchanged from their last report) for the condition of the nation’s roads, bridges, dams, ports and other vital areas. Experts note that a lot of our national infrastructure is beyond its designed lifetime, meaning that it’s brittle; even minor stressors could break important infrastructure, and with the load on it being higher than ever the consequences can be expected to be more severe. Factor in the increased incidence of catastrophic weather events (in 2016 alone there were six so-called 1,000-year rainfall events) and stressors could easily be more than minor.
What does that mean for business? You don’t have to be located below a dam to have concerns. The condition of roads, tunnels and bridges is an obvious and visible issue in most parts of the country. Any business that relies on incoming or outgoing transportation of goods, stock, or labor is vulnerable. Think back to the collapse of the span on Interstate 35 over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis in 2010; that bridge was the third busiest in the area, a major artery carrying 140,000 vehicles over the river daily. The collapse of the bridge affected river, rail, road, bicycle and pedestrian, and air transit for over a year. Businesses throughout the region were affected, many drastically, some fatally.
One important purpose of a well written insurance program is to anticipate and mitigate, to the extent possible, these types of exposures, and to support any disaster planning you do. We’ll be happy to sit with you and discuss this.
What does that mean for business? You don’t have to be located below a dam to have concerns. The condition of roads, tunnels and bridges is an obvious and visible issue in most parts of the country.