28 Oct 2021
by Adele Cherreson Cole

The annual ALARM Scotland Conference took place earlier this week. As delegates from as far afield as Shetland and London flew in, a fresh breeze of hope for new times and old normality blew in with them. The first in-person ALARM Conference for two years brought with it anticipation and excitement.

In fact, it felt almost like old times, as ebullient Phil Farrar of Risk Management Partners kicked off the ALARM Scotland Conference on Monday. Of course, we all sat in distance aware rows wearing facemasks, but it was comforting to once again tune into his usual wise cracks as we settled into the familiar environment of in-person presentations.

The subject was workforce and workplace changes. Phil and Ashley provided a well-researched reminder of where we have come from and where we are at, with some interesting suggestions on where we may be going.

We were also reminded of how far we have come in just a couple of short but frenetic years, as Ashley from Gallagher Bassett asked some questions for consideration: do we need to change the way children learn and the skills we are teaching them? How do we manage risks and leverage the advantages from mixed generational workforces? How are we going to form new water cooler spaces?

Another interesting two-hander was delivered by Alix Bedford from Zurich and Ruth Kydd from City of Edinburgh Council. Both passionate about their subject - the sustainability of buildings - the session was quick-fire and fact-packed, leaving delegates with much to ponder.

The biggest climate risk in the UK is flooding. “Flooding is an increasing and unpredictable risk,” said Alix. “Are your plans fit for purpose and for the future? What is your flood risk going to look like in 2050?” More questions for delegates to take away and answer, with a strong insurer recommendation to review flood plans now.

After lunch we had a choice of two sessions, each engaging and totally different. Graeme Blackie from Sedgwick, is new to ALARM and his presentation set a backdrop to many supply chain issues being faced now. In an insightful presentation he explained why our Amazon deliveries and public services may be affected by interruptions to the global movement of goods and people. In the UK Brexit has undoubtedly been an issue, but it is just one issue, and Graeme explained the multiple challenges and vulnerabilities that may create a perfect storm at Christmas.

At the same time Karen Locke from Renfrewshire Council and Vice President of ALARM, talked to delegates about a new approach her council has embarked on to handle business as usual risks through an assurance model, rather than using traditional risk management methods. Karen’s view is that the new approach will add more value for her organisation in how BAU risks are managed, monitored, and reported. One of Karen’s tips was: “Average statistics tell you nothing. You don’t get to the heart of assurance. You need to ask other questions.”

Sara Mackenzie from Police Scotland, blew our minds explaining blue zones, red zones, police specialist risks, and a unique risk training exercise, while recounting the two-year effort into Police Scotland’s planning for the COP26 international event in Glasgow from 21 October to 12 November.

With 10,000 officers deployed during the event, Sara and her team have had to ensure that every day policing and incident response is not compromised. It has been a huge collaborative exercise, working with the Scottish and UK governments and the UN, as well as liaising with Devon & Cornwall Council to learn from their recent G7 experience. In the meantime, COVID-19 has been a help as well as a hindrance to progress: “COVID-19 provided an opportunity for learnings that have contributed to COP26 training. But it has also brought more challenges,” commented Sara.

Finally on Day One, Rory Jackson and Louise Houliston from Kennedys, wrapped up a fascinating day with a pithy session on two major 2021 changes to the Scottish legal system. The historic abuse redress scheme for survivors, and QOCS. The new Act was introduced in spring 2021 and is due to go live in December 2021. QOCS covers all Scottish personal injury claims (including disease and fatal claims) made on or after 30 June 2021 and will be reviewed in June 2023. Look out for a roundup of Scottish legal news in 2021 plus a look ahead at 2022, from Rory and Louise on the ALARM website next month.

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