At first glance the two subjects in the title of today’s blog may seem unrelated. But they translate into the concept of taking proper care of yourself and your family in order to avoid injury or illness. It’s like looking both ways before crossing the street, or not letting your middle school child play outside after curfew, or not smoking while filling your tank with gasoline.

While those ideas are commonly accepted, many people do not understand that managing risk has two parts to it. The first part, the one everyone thinks of, is ‘what is the probability such-and-such will happen?’ If the odds are 1 in 100, the chances seem very good, perhaps even excellent. But risk has a darker side: ‘what will the impact be if the event DOES happen?’ Betting 100 to 1 on a roll of the dice is one thing; betting that you can step out of the way of a train before it hits you is another. The difference is the result, the impact.

I’m thinking specifically about the Kaufman family from San Diego. In March of this year they left San Diego as part of their plan to travel around the world on a 36 foot sailboat. They got stranded 1,000 miles from land and it took four pararescuers and the U.S.S. Vandegrift to save them. Supporters of the sailing family were quoted as saying, “Bad things happen,” and “some people are adventurous and some are not.” But these defenders are missing the point. While the Kaufmans are probably nice people who love their children, they risked the lives of their children, for what, a trip around the world? It doesn’t seem worth it to me. They are guilty of poor risk management.

In their defense, the Kaufmans probably figured the odds of engine and communications systems failure were very low. And they probably didn’t think their one year old would get sick. But all of those things happened and the potential outcome was the death of their little baby. Pararescuers said the baby was only a couple of days from serious problems when help arrived.

I’m sure there are still people who will defend the Kaufmans; focusing on the probability of something going wrong. They are missing the point. Risk management is the consideration of probability plus impact. Nothing is worth the loss of your child. And a voyage across the Pacific Ocean on a 36 foot sailboat, is not the place for an infant and a toddler.

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