Resilient Communities are the Foundations of a Resilient America.

Not All Disasters are the Color of Doom

Recently, I read an interesting piece by Howard Pierpont, entitled “Is your organization prepared for this?” In the following, I’m going to quote and comment on what he wrote (with his permission).

“Not every disaster is bad…Traditionally we think of a disaster situation as one where we can not serve our customer because we lack production capability due to a failure.

Chik-fil-A … suffered from a short notice Customer Appreciation Day…The unit near my home had a drive up window backlog of ~50 cars during the midday reviews that I did. There were in excess of 100 people waiting outside the unit both times I checked. These numbers far exceed day traffic patterns.

What preparations do you have in place if there is a positive rush on your business? How fast can you scale up your staffing pattern from normal? How rapidly can you replenish you supply line [The questions would be the same if you were the only (or first) supplier available after a negative disaster.]?”

Howard is clearly writing for businesses, but his message applies to communities just as well. One way to define a disaster is that you don’t have the resources to carry out business as usual. For a community, an excellent example might be having a major new business come to the community. The jobs and the revenue the business will bring are certainly welcome, but the demands made on existing services (e.g., water, electricity, schools) can be nightmares. In fact, the overall quality of life may actually decrease until the community’s service systems expand to meet the new demand.

Lee County, MS, offers an interesting example of a community that anticipated this sort of “positive disaster.” A few years ago, they successfully competed against several other communities to attract a Toyota plant. Instead of simply deciding that the plant would be sited in Lee County, the county commission decided to partner with neighboring counties. In fact, the location touted was near but not in Lee County. The county leadership recognized that the expected increase in demands for services would be better met by pooling resources than by trying to go it alone. They were successful and avoided a potential “positive disaster.” This kind of anticipation and action is the hallmark of a resilient community – they recognized that not all disasters are the color of doom, but they’re ready for them just the same.