As a planner interested in establishing strategic advantages, one of the first things to get done is an assessment of readiness. A good risk assessment helps reduce the need for crisis management. The risk list can be a very basic set of public responsibilities – fire response is the classic example of a known probability. Responding to the unknown, on the other hand, is a difficult policy to establish – stop and fisk comes to mind when a police power clashes with an unknown probability. Setting aside a resource that may never be used or using one without legitimacy weakens the public power to protect its citizens. To put the “unknown” into perspective I organize my thinking with four components in mind.
It matters little if you are one family or the president of a large company or a nation. You can do a risk assessment, outline actions that reduce them, consider what needs to be insured and how each risk is shared in your community, region, or world.
|Risk Assessment||Reducing Risk||Insurance||Risk Transfer|
|Prioritized probability based on global capacity to harm||Plan measures that will lower physical vulnerability||Produce and provide reserves||Couple data with reinsurance strategies|
|Assess human vulnerability with analysis by type||Set control measures by unique locations and local conditions||Reserve funds, to assure services drive supply demands||Develop regional approaches to pool insurance risks|
|Integrate information on probabilities with a fiscal strategy||Establish responsive comprehensive protocol refined by priority||Localize “rainy day” systems to deploy first response system||Long term debt plan with international financial institutions|
Using these four columns, an assessment of impacts from global warming to a rapidly spreading virus on your town, city, or world can be very effective. I pulled this table from my files because learned how the national office on pandemic response planning got opened, then closed over the years. The nations of the world have let crisis policy slip into the fog of “it can’t happen here or now,” or worse, “if it happens, the loss can be absorbed.” Allowing this “roulette-table” thinking at the top does not increase the invulnerability of decision-makers. As any psychologist will tell you, assuring shared vulnerability is a source of courage, especially when it is needed greatly.
Preventing natural disasters is not possible. For example, GHGs entering the atmosphere occur naturally; as do viruses, however, the confirmation that the increase is dangerous only leaves human actors to respond with “decisions and actions” and, hopefully, the skills to mitigate two results. The physical damage to people and the impact on their output.
The use of the term “program” requires an explanation in the following discussion of managing crises. Please imagine the word “program” as a single entity for managing all human affairs. Now see it as having control over any change that endangers a community and that it is good at its job.
Assigning a value to solve an imagined problem has a long list of practical trials that analyze the financial costs of risk and uncertainty in actuarial programs. Here, the problem is not solved, just the loss of all or a portion of the impact. It is paid in cash, in support of recovery, post-trauma. We are entering a period of earth’s 4.5 billion-year history when that will not be enough. It was only 2.5 million years since humans began flaking stone into tools and only the last 100,000 in which this practice became lethal.
Solving a problem based on a variable that has not been set previously is a matter of setting default values with preemptive power over the unknown. However, once a value for preventive action is defined, the “if this,” “then that” condition occurs. Once again, releasing the post-trauma solution. Not good enough.
A no value, non-declared variable occurs due to the complete suspension of judgment. The cause is indeterminacy within the program. In this case, the program selects all undefined variables as equal and assigns all of them to a recurring cycle. What can be made to recur reveals the control methods equivalent to the complexity of the recurrence. For its practitioners, this is the release of an intuitive learning process plus math.
It is time for an example. Statistical epidemiologists break up a population into cohorts and apply versions of the SIR model – susceptible, infected, and recovered or removed (described here). The math expands to define “exposed” but not infected and other variables as they wish. The center of the COVID-19 experience reveals to its analysts a long list of possible no value, nondeclared variables that could exist ahead of any occurrence.
Next, the ratio of recovery to removal reveals a death rate, and an infector/infectee ratio estimates the serial interval. The ordinary flu transmits in 3.6 days, where a 95% confidence interval would be from 2.9 to 4.3 days with a standard deviation of 1.6 days. The method of per person/per place transmission is known; mitigation steps can be taken. If you prefer “a devil in the details” approach, I recommend the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME University of Washington). They produce The Global Burden of Disease report on every illness and injury in the world every year.
A disease transmitted from person to person reveals the “reproductive number” to evaluate transmission rates followed by subsequent measures of time for transmission and mitigation recommendations. The serial interval or the period when infector/infectee becomes infectee/infectee becomes known. Action can be taken.
It’s time for a metaphor. Serological tests require massive numbers to identify antibodies, immune response in a population leading to preemption safeguards, quarantine periods, and social distancing policies. Silos filled with nuclear warheads dot the earth for a known threat culminating in a theory of mutually assured destruction. The same approach to viral infection in the population should be equal to the associated uncertainty of war, as it carries a similar (if not higher) range of no value, nondeclared variables.
New policy frameworks will demand a far greater assessment of risk, methods of reduction, and shared transfers of technology. We are one family and drink from cups full of speculations and opinions and must know that wisdom comes from emptying these cups.