tested knowing that the founding
norms and beliefs are changing?
As such, are the Justice
department, law enforcement and
regulatory systems still appropriate
safeguards? Is the system abuse-proof? Is the system poised to spring
I am not a political scientist. I am
a pipeline engineer who now does
risk management. But the rules of
good management and stress testing
Operating in an environment
where systems and processes are
under risky pressure can be perilous.
When the system starts sprouting
leaks, is the plan to simply to put
a finger in every hole? And what
happens when we run out of fingers?
Risk lives in our weakest links and
no matter what organization, it is
best to be better prepared. &
JOANNA MAKOMASKI is a specialist in
innovative enterprise risk management
methods and implementation techniques.
She can be reached at riskletters@lrp.
I worked in the oil and gas pipeline industry as a chief engineer. Prior to placing any pipeline system into the
ground, we hydrostatically tested the pipe for 24 hours
practice to model concurrent and
multiple weather events to highlight
more probable level of stress on, say,
a staffing system.
Important questions to ask to start
a stress test are:
• What are our key business
processes that support our
• Do we have any new
organizational norms or values?
• What key strategy controls do
we have in place?
• How strong are these controls?
But what happens if you don’t
get to stress test in time and your
critical system functions and strategic
controls come under severe or
As of late, one very large
organization whose systems seem to
be feeling such strategic pressures
appears to be the U.S. government.
The U.S. Constitution’s checks and
balances act as democracy controls
intended to tyrant-proof the whole
But have these controls been stress
risk scenarios and test the effect on
business processes and strategies and
see if there exists adequate capital to
support unexpected perils. We look
to see where the organization springs
leaks and we plug them.
For non-financial organizations,
I think of airlines. Great benefits
are derived from stress testing crew
scheduling procedures for example.
We can simulate severe weather
events and examine the effect on the
potential cancellation or delay of
thousands of flights.
Individual weather events don’t
need to be overly extreme to cripple
a crew-scheduling system. It’s good
at increased pressures. We would
fill the pipe system with water, hike
up the pressure and watch for leaks
or weaknesses in the pipe, joints or
welds. This was an assurance test.
It warranted that the system, once
operational, could take unexpected
pressure. It highlighted in advance
what weaknesses to expect so we
could prepare to take appropriate
Fast forward to my days now in
risk management. I again find myself
conducting similar stress tests with
Instead of using water, we
pressure up the organization using
BY ROBERTO CENICEROS
BY JOANNA MAKOMASKI
New Mindset on
Societal changes are tilting public opinion in favor of enacting laws that provide first responders with
workers’ compensation benefits for post-traumatic
In June alone, at least two
states — Colorado and Texas —
enacted laws easing the way for
police, firefighters and paramedics
diagnosed with PTSD to receive
benefits. During the same month,
lawmakers in Vermont and Maine
sent legislation to their governors
that would presume PTSD suffered
by first responders is work-related.
As expected, unions representing
first responders support these laws.
Local governments, along with some
insurer groups, have opposed, for
fear of paying for a flood of new
claims. Debate over adopting the
laws includes conventional workers’
comp considerations like whether the
claims are legitimately work-related.
But there is another, not-so
traditional force at work.
Nearly six years ago when a
former fire captain named Jeff Dill
launched an organization called
Firefighter Behavioral Health
Alliance, few people talked about
suicide prevention, addiction, and
PTSD among first responders.
That is shifting.
Today, you hear more people
openly talking about mental health
challenges. There is a cultural
shift underway. The stigma around
acknowledging mental ailments is
falling away, lending legitimacy to
More first responders are similarly
voicing stories about the trauma they
experienced following horrific events,
Couple that trend with the rise
in high-profile mass shootings and
you get greater sympathy-generating
awareness of the mentally unsettling,
war-like situations that police
officers, firefighters and paramedics
That adds significant emotional
depth to arguments that the nation
must take care of its first responders
so they can take care of us. The idea
of covering mental health conditions,
however, still collides with workers’
comp systems that reflexively oppose
assuming responsibility for mental
injuries that are not as readily
apparent as, say, a mangled hand.
Paul H. Sighinolfi took heat, as he
put it, from his state’s municipalities
for supporting adoption of legislation
stating that first responders
diagnosed with PTSD presumably
acquired the condition as a result of
Sighinolfi is executive director
and chairman of Maine’s Workers’
“They are exposed to things that
the human psyche just isn’t capable
of dealing with,” Sighinolfi said of
the types of traumatic events that
first responders have described to
Sighinolfi supported the law’s
adoption on the condition that
it would mandate that a licensed
psychologist or psychiatrist renders
the PTSD diagnosis, and that work
was the predominant cause.
He figured that would eliminate
historically hasn’t adequately
addressed mental health injuries
caused by workplace injuries, said
Mark Walls, VP of Communications
& Strategic Analysis at Safety
With more people speaking out
about mental trauma, that may be
ROBERTO CENICEROS is senior editor at
Risk & Insurance® and chair of the National
Workers’ Compensation and Disability
Conference® & Expo. He can be reached at