I missed the opening reception of RIMS in San Diego this year. From what I hear it was quite the event. They had closed a couple blocks on a street in San Diego's fabled Gas Lamp District, and brought in thousands of attendees to kick off the annual conference this year.

Then they inadvertently launched fireworks from a rooftop into the crowd, injuring several, and hospitalizing one.


Now, contrary to rumor, the theme of this event was not “Downtown Fallujah Saturday Night”. This was not an intentional lesson in managing risk; but it was nevertheless an ironic one.

Sadly, this is not the first RIMS opener that experienced unexpected pitfalls and potential injuries. I blogged a couple years ago about the RIMS opener in Los Angeles, where planners had not seemed to notice a nearly invisible curb that many fell over before they blocked it off. And of course, last year I wrote about taking a header in a New Orleans gutter while attending the annual RIMSfest. That was certainly not the fault of event organizers, but I am beginning to worry that the RIMS Annual Conference may be hazardous to my health. 

But back to the opening reception for this year. What were they thinking? Who at RIMS thought that launching fireworks from a rooftop (from a ROOFTOP!!) of an occupied building 12 feet over the heads of thousands of attendees crammed on a narrow street was a good idea? Frankly, I am amazed that the idea passed muster to begin with.

Many attendees wondered afterwards why the fireworks were not terminated after the first misfire into the crowd. The most likely answer was that the system used timed fuses, that once lit would burn to the point of detonation. One would have to be physically at the launch point to cut the fuse to prevent it from firing; and the person responsible for this display was probably halfway back to Tijuana by the time this debacle had concluded. People who think they should have just “stopped it” clearly don't understand the basics of professional pyrotechnic displays.

But then again, apparently neither did the people hired to put on the professional pyrotechnic display in the first place.

Probably the most disturbing thing for me, however, is the very loud silence that followed the misfire aftermath. By all accounts, the folks at RIMS seemed to be trying to ignore or quell the error. Rumor has it that people tweeting about it were asked to stop, and an article in Risk and Insurance about the mishap stated that “RIMS could not yet offer official comment”. My question is, “Why not?” What is wrong with stating that their wishes are with those injured, and they are reviewing their processes to determine what went wrong? Why can't they comment on this?

It seems they should attend a few sessions at their own conference; those that teach us that managing risk today is largely about transparency and open response. They should not try to sweep this under the rug. Owning the issue is the best way to handle it, no matter how embarrassing the irony may be.

The rest of the conference was, per usual, a successful event by all reasonable accounts. I will write a bit more about it next week. 

But there is no doubt, this year's conference literally got off with a bang. 

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