Tonight was the opening reception to RIMS 2013 in Los Angeles, the annual risk management conference that draws thousands of professionals from around the world to discuss the current trends and challenges of risk in business today. The reception, called RIMS Vibe@LA Live, was held in the open air courtyard in the LA Live area, in front of Staples Center. By my account it was a stunning success. Thousands of people enjoyed great music, celebrity impersonators, excellent food, and used the chance to reconnect with friends and associates seldom seen. 

The weather was perfect, the atmosphere exciting. The only problem was that pesky curb.

You see, Los Angeles, black curbs should be painted yellow. Towards the back side of the event, a curb lining the street in front of Staples Center proved to be a bit of a challenge for some attendees. I first encountered the curb when I was heading towards some standing tables that had been set on the now closed street. In the bright sun shining low in the western sky, I did not discern the curbs existence until the moment I stepped off it, catching myself just in time to prevent a most embarrassing spill. I was a bit surprised that no one, at a risk conference event, had noticed that this curb, painted black, could have been a problem. I wondered if others in the crowd would have the same issue. I did not have to wait long for my answer. 

As I stood at one of the nearby tables, another attendee came up, and was attempting to wipe the red wine she spilled off her hand and arm. She spilled it stumbling over the invisible curb. As we were talking about this potential hazard, some poor woman near us took a complete header off the curb, spilling her dinner, tearing her pantyhose and bloodying her knees. 

Police were on scene almost immediately. Medical assistants were on scene in less than 3 minutes.

Over the next ten minutes we watched as 4 more people fell off the curb, and numerous people stumbled unexpectedly, spilling drinks and struggling to maintain their balance.

Tape put down on curb as safety measure at RIMS

The good news here, and there is good news, is that this was indeed a risk aware event. The people of RIMS were on it. Within minutes of the first fall, catering employees were stationed about every 15 feet along the curb, attempting to warn people of its presence as they approached. (Look at the photo to the left. Can you tell that black line is a curb?) Within 10 or 15 minutes, red tape had been lined along the entire curb length, with orange safety cones distributed along the line. The carnage would be no more.

The lesson here,of course, is that the city should not have a curb separating a gray street and gray concrete courtyard that is painted black. It defies all common sense that it was so to begin with. The sub text to this lesson is that, once a hazard is recognized, it is critical to act decisively. Countless knees and an untold number of egos were saved by event organizers quick thinking and fast response. The real lesson is, if you miss a hazard, fast action once recognized will go a long way to set the issue right.  

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