From The Desk Of Gary Sloman…

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The cover of this issue of NM811 Magazine features New Mexico’s well known state bird, the Roadrunner. The hen is on high alert and ready to move the instant it comprehends what is about to happen. Could be the danger sensed by the presence of the photographer, could be prey for a meal, but whatever the reason, this bird is ready to act.

This bird walks around rapidly, running down prey. It mainly feeds on insects, fruit and seeds with the addition of small reptiles, small rodents, spiders, scorpions, centipedes, millipedes, small birds, their eggs, and carrion, including road kills. It kills larger prey with a blow from the beak—hitting the base of the neck of small mammals—or by holding it in the beak and beating it against a rock. Two roadrunners sometimes attack a relatively big snake cooperatively.

The Greater Roadrunner, taxonomically classified as Geococcyx californianus, meaning “Californian Earth-cuckoo,” is a long-legged bird in the cuckoo family. This roadrunner is also known as the chaparral cock, ground cuckoo, and snake killer.

Being classified as a member of the cuckoo family is a product of how taxonomists work and the classification is not intended to be a description of the bird’s behavior. In fact, when you observe one of these birds, you soon realize this bird is very focused on its mission, tenacious in its behavior and effective at maneuvering. And while it is usually seen alone, it will work in harmony with another roadrunner to defeat snakes. It survives and prospers because of its numerous small successes made each day and its commitment to understand its prey and its ability to hone its tactical skills. Many of these characteristics are also seen in damage prevention professionals of today.

The naïve will ask: “Why do damage professionals needs to be tenacious, focused, and tactically skilled when the mission is to prevent damages?” The nature of damage prevention is changing from what it has been over the last several years. It is no longer solely about education and public awareness; it is evolving into what we do if the unthinkable happens. Many stipulations today require plans and rehearsals to check the effectiveness of groups working together to respond and bring incidents under control that may occur. Practice and cooperation are the only way any incident can be quickly mitigated and the impact reduced on public health and safety. Resources are expensive and scarce. No stakeholder group can single-handedly manage a catastrophe. Cooperation, harmony, and practice among diverse stakeholders allow the few resources available to be deployed most effectively to limit the impact. No longer is it just about pipelines; it’s also about water supplies, keeping communication lines running, protecting the environment, and ensuring the general public can function effectively when the utilities they are dependent upon are disrupted for whatever reason. And to some extent, this change is being driven by an increase in natural disasters, terrorism, and manic behaviors of deranged individuals. Governments, schools, businesses, and sport stadiums are all being driven to think about the unthinkable. Damage prevention is no longer about preventing an outage; it is about preserving critical infrastructure and its importance in mitigating the unthinkable. Damage prevention may never have a direct role in fixing disasters, but it certainly will be prominent in preventing a lack of critical resources needed to respond to that disaster. Maybe it is time we, as a collective stakeholder group, learn to stay alert, learn to work together, and hone our practical skills to know how to protect what matters. After all, if a cuckoo roadrunner can do that, why can’t we?

Gary Sloman

Executive Director

New Mexico 811

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