Thursday, August 25, 2011

Thoughts on the Earthquake Response

I agree with almost everything Seth Godin has to say. His ability to write pithy and powerful blog posts is unmatched. Though, I'm not quite sure I agree with his assessment about the recent earthquake:

2. Organizations are busy evacuating buildings, even national monuments. Even though experience indicates that the most dangerous thing you can do is have tens of thousands of people run down the stairs, cram into the elevators and stand in the streets, we do it anyway. Why? Because people like to do something. Action, even ineffective action, is something societies seek out during times of uncertainty.

From my very limited experience in this area, I can tell you that there are two dangers during an emergency:

  1. You'll panic
  2. You'll freeze

So, I agree with Seth that running shrieking from the building is a bad idea. And yeah, cramming into an elevator is an excellent way to turn a non-disaster into a full blown one. But, taking no action is just as bad.

If you had gone back to your desk, how would you have known if the building was structurally damaged? How would you know if there was a gas leak in the basement, unless you wait for the building engineer to clear the facility?

Panic is bad. But taking no action, alas, is apparently just as common for people and the results can be as devastating.

My guess is that Seth and I probably agree on this: people and organizations, when faced with a emergency (the earth is shaking! the server is down! the monthly sales numbers were a disaster!) need to take calm, measured, action. Anything else, is a recipe for making the problem worse.

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