DISASTER! : Do you know the two unbreakable rules of auditing after a tragedy?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

In 2007, Minnesota experienced an unpredictable disaster. The Minneapolis I-35W Bridge collapsed over the Mississippi River. There was public turmoil as traffic was immobilized and rumors spread through the public and the media, the most frightening of which was the suspicion of a terrorist threat. In the end, 13 people were killed and 145 were injured.

After such a tragedy, auditing the suppliers to the Owner of the bridge becomes a great challenge. Suddenly everything changes at all levels of an organization. An auditor must face a new raw and volatile environment.

Above all an auditor must remember two unbreakable rules of auditing after a disaster:

1. DO NOT DO NOT DO NOT TALK ABOUT THE DISASTER AT ANYTIME DURING THE AUDIT.

As an auditor, it is tempting to fall into the vortex of emotion that surrounds such an event. The auditor is often the first "face of the agency" a supplier sees after a disaster, and sometimes the disaster is the reason for the audit. Auditees may look to an auditor for answers to why the disaster happened, or auditees may expect the disaster to be the scope of the audit. Everyone is watching with more acute vision and listening with sharper ears. Anything you say or do as an auditor can and will be construed as the official opinion of the Owner you represent. Keep off the subject of the event.

2. Stick to audit criteria

It is paramount that the auditor keeps a professional façade. Mixed emotions likely will permeate the staff of a fabrication shop after a tragic event. Guilt, Blame, and generally bad feelings inspire auditees to look for direction. As we mentioned above, that direction should not be driven by the disaster itself. The codes, standards, and specifications set forth as the sources for audit criteria remain the driving force behind audit observations. The purpose of the audit is not to find all the things that went wrong in the disaster; it is to assure that requirements are met and procedures are in place to produce a good product.

P.S. On May 22, 2012, Terry Logan, our Vice President, will be giving his presentation "How to Audit After a Disaster" at the ASQ World Conference in Anaheim, CA. He will discuss in detail and from experience the critical things that must be considered by auditors in trying times.

If you’ve see Terry speak before, you know that his presentations are always lively, no matter the topic! If you haven’t seen him speak, what are you waiting for? More information on the conference can be found here:

ASQ World Conference.

P.P.S. Be sure to keep up with us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for more information about this and other upcoming events!