February 15, 2017

You Gotta Serve Somebody

Robert Zimmerman, a Jewish man from Minnesota went to the Muscle Shoals Sound Studios on May 4, 1979 to record a gospel tune.  It’s the great man’s latest hit, hitting number 24 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.   This was around the time he converted to Christianity.

While becoming Bob Dylan, two people tried to cut Zimmerman’s amplifiers and one was successful.  The first was his principle at the high school talent show.  He found Dylan’s band, the Golden Chords too loud on their version of Danny and the Juniors hit ’Rock and Roll is Here to Stay’ and cut chord.  The second was Pete Seeger at the Monterey Pop Festival.  Dylan electrified and shocked many fans.  One story has it that Peter Seeger’s hearing aid was acting up and he was thus in paid.  Another story was that he could hear Dylan just fine and was still in pain.    

In between chord-cutting experiences, Dylan played keyboards for Robert Velline from nearby Fargo, North Dakota.  Velline, or just plain Vee, as in Bobby Vee filled in for the late Buddy Holly when his plane went down with the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens.  It was February 3, 1959, the day the music died.  One side story has it that Bob Dylan pretended to be Bobby Vee or at least the person with the regional top 40 hit that was actually done by Vee.    

But back to serving somebody.  This is an apt introduction to insurance.  The saying in the risk business is that the risk will have its day.  You must fund the risk.  You can self-insure, meaning you have no insurance and are taking your chances.  Some shipping companies do this because premiums are high and the likelihood of the loss of a ship is low.  If you buy insurance, you are spreading the risk over equal monthly payments, rather than an unforeseen balloon payment when loss happens.  You can also take prudent steps to reduce vulnerability.   This may reduce insurance premiums too—a double payback.  You can also avoid the risk by not going into the shipping business, but then you’d face other risks.  

Whatever your approach, there is no such thing as no risk.        

Baltimore’s emergency operations plan rightly notes that repetitive loss properties are the biggest drain on America’s flood insurance fund.  This is a bigger deal than you might think.  In many urban emergency plans you can read long, long lists of critical facilities which are in the floodplain and vulnerable.  Even police, fire and emergency facilities have leaky roofs, computers in the basement, no auxiliary power, and on it goes.  

So, what to do? You gotta serve somebody.  You can let nature take its destructive course and tear through or flood these facilities every now and then.  The insurance premium can be low but the cost after an emergency is high.  You can pay higher premiums and get rebuilt after the storm.  

Or you can make these facilities more resilient.  After all, many of these facilities are the ones you’ll need most in an urban emergency.  For example, there’s no law that says you have to store your critical paper files in the basement.  Nor do you have to have hot water heaters, electrical boxes, or computers close enough to the ground to get wet in a flood.  You can build a berm around your basement furnace to keep out the first few inches of water too.             

Up on the higher floors, bookshelves, computers, printers, and such can be tied down.

There’s lots more that can be done, and if your city won’t, do it yourself, in your home and stay put during an emergency.    

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