Being Prepared – Who? What? When?

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On January 6th of this new year, Colorado was digging out from a winter storm that dropped up to a foot of snow in some places while dropping temperatures to -30oF in other locations.  At the same time, Atlanta, GA was anxiously anticipating a different winter storm – one delivering temperatures just below freezing and mixtures of rain, freezing rain, sleet and snow.

Image Credit: Guy Higgins, Firestorm Principal, Firestorm Colorado

I’ve experienced winter storms in Dallas, Texas, Brunswick Maine, Washington, D.C. and Lafayette, Colorado.  The experiences were vastly different.

  • In two and a half years in Maine, I never, once, missed a day of work and I don’t recall schools ever being closed. At the same time, everyone, individuals and businesses prepared, in earnest, for winter – not just a single storm, but the entire season.
  • In Colorado, where I now live, snow storms are frequently greeted with glee by the skiers and snowboarders since they offer better conditions on the mountains – even if they also make the drive to the slopes miserable. As in Maine, people and businesses tend to be well prepared for the winter season.
  • In DC, like Atlanta, any two random snowflakes are enough to create complete paralysis of the metro area. The Federal Government will announce that only “essential personnel” should report for work – an announcement that prompted my father-in-law to ask why we were paying non-essential personnel.  In DC (and Atlanta), winter tends to be a nuisance rather than the threat that it is in Maine, Colorado and similar cold-weather locales. Not only that, but it is difficult for state and local governments to justify an investment in snowplows and sand trucks for the once-every-three-years.
  • In Dallas, ice rather than snow storms predominated and the level of preparedness was even more (in my opinion) dismal than in DC or Atlanta, because it is much more difficult to spend money on sand and salt for the twice-in-a-decade storm and after a day or so, when the temperature had gone back up but the roads and highways remained ice covered, people returned to their normal driving habits – something that resulted in a marked increase in the revenue for auto body shops.

What does all of this have to do with preparedness?  It pays for individuals and organizations to Predict the kinds of disruptions they are likely to encounter, Plan for those disruptions – taking into account what kind of response local government is going to make to the disruption – and Perform in alignment with the local government response when the disruption occurs. It is a waste of resources to plan for a response that will duplicate that of the government and a waste of personal or organizational resources to fail to plan a response when it is known that the local government response will be inadequate.

As for my response to the Colorado winter storm, I’m going skiing.  The base is up to 44”!

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