hands and knees, cover your head
and neck with your arms to protect
yourself from falling debris and hold
on to any sturdy covering until the
You are not to run outside or get
in a doorway. In short you “Drop,
Cover and Hold on.” Prepare the
same way for aftershocks.
Practicing the drop, cover and
hold on procedure is essential. Next
is having an earthquake kit at your
home or business. Make sure you
have a fire extinguisher, a first aid kit,
a battery-powered radio, a flashlight
and extra batteries. I would add to
this list a phone: An old fashioned
analog phone that does not need a
So, when I look back at my
instinct to stay put, it all makes sense
now. Drop, cover, hold on. &
JOANNA MAKOMASKI is a specialist in
innovative enterprise risk management
methods and implementation
techniques. She can be reached at
This was my first earthquake. I was standing in my kitchen in Costa Rica on November 12 when it
happened. The ground started to grumble. The dog barked.
our individual experiences. When a
neighbor heard I stayed inside, I was
severely scolded and mocked. “You
are a risk manager. You should know;
you must get out of the house during
the earthquake. Right?”
In truth, I was not completely
sure. One hears so many versions
of what one should do. I never
realized how many renditions of
escape plans exist. The confusion
only compounded as I listened to my
overly excited neighbors argue about
who pushed who out of the way to
get out of the house first.
This story ended well for our
community. No damages. No
injuries. No threat of a tsunami.
But as a curious risk manager, I
decided to take stock and research
this issue and finally settle the score.
What to do during an earthquake?
What is the appropriate risk
mitigation for dealing with quakes?
According to the website of the
Department of Homeland Security
( www.ready.gov), if you are inside,
you are to drop down onto your
know what was going to happen next.
Would there be a tsunami? Would
there be aftershocks? I decided to
stay inside and wait.
Within a half hour, things seemed
to calm down. My dear neighbor
drove up to the house — a beautiful
sight, our beach community
checking in on each other. We soon
learned it was a 6.9-magnitude
earthquake as measured at the
Universidad Nacional Costa Rica. As
it turned out our homes sat right atop
We gathered as neighbors to relive
The fridge began a hula dance.
The house swayed back and forth
intensely. My pool shot out plumes of
water that travelled 20 feet.
I could not walk. I felt as though
I was on a very tippy boat. I grabbed
the counter and waited.
After the longest 30 seconds of my
life, the house stopped swaying. For
a grand finale, I heard the last gasps
of power shutting down. It got pitch
dark. No appliances. No TV. No
internet. No cell service. No landline.
I was in a blackout on all levels.
I could not see, and I did not
Ahead of the
BY ROBERTO CENICEROS
come when employers take the lead
by either working with labor or by
bringing about change that isn’t one
sided and that genuinely improves the
lives of injured workers.
This might be what is happening
with some large employers who are
adopting serious worker advocacy
strategies. The advocacy approach
limits challenges on claims that are
only marginally questionable.
The worker advocacy approach
redirects resources formerly spent on
questioning claims to programs that
make sure workers are well cared for.
This strategy is being practiced by
customer-service focused employers
such as Disney and Delta Air Lines.
Just as the battle to stem opioid
use began with a few risk managers,
this positive development might also
find a wider practice.
It’s not a given yet, but it is more
likely than imaginary white knights
in the form of workers’ comp special
interest groups riding in to “save” the
ROBERTO CENICEROS is senior editor at
Risk & Insurance® and chair of the National
Workers’ Compensation and Disability
Conference® & Expo. He can be reached at
Proactive risk managers can directly impact the direction of the workers’ comp industry.
that can be substantial — with risk
managers often at the forefront.
That happened during the earlier
2000s, when California risk managers
joined labor representatives to kick
insurers and workers’ comp vendors
out of the room in order to negotiate
for improvements that increased
worker benefits while easing
It wasn’t a radical reset of
California’s worker’s comp system;
but the changes they brought
were substantial enough to reverse
difficult insurance-purchasing market
Two years ago, ProPublica
launched its journalistic investigation
spotlighting workers’ comp system
shortcomings that left disabled
workers without care.
ProPublica’s stories caused
some introspection within workers’
comp, followed by highly touted
conversations on improving workers’
comp across America.
But I don’t see major changes
emerging from that.
Fixing workers’ comp won’t
come from taking the input of
people whose self-interest is well
served under the current structure.
Significant change is more likely to
public relations departments frowned
on publicly associating their company
brands with worker addictions — had
their PR departments known about
these conference presentations, of
But that is how positive shifts
occur in otherwise convoluted state
workers’ comp systems resistant to
change. Sophisticated employers
encounter a problem, push their
vendors to help find solutions and
share their results.
Workers’ comp now leads the
rest of the nation in addressing the
I don’t expect to see any radical
structural changes occurring within
state workers’ comp systems in the
next few years. Positive shifts will
occur, however, in smaller ways
It often takes a few passionate
risk managers to force substantial,
yet limited, shifts in workers’
Fair example: More than a decade
ago, a few focused risk managers
launched strategies for curbing
doctors’ opioid prescribing practices
for injured workers.
They laid the groundwork
for approaches widely applied in
workers’ comp today, years before
opioids would be labeled a national
emergency or become a common
These risk managers were early to
spot the problem, and a few of them
even shared their strategies publicly,
discussing their approaches at risk
You can imagine their corporate
Drop, Cover and
BY JOANNA MAKOMASKI