Alan Weiss’s Monday Morning Memo® – 1/09/2023
Preventive action is designed to reduce the likelihood of a problem occurring. This is exemplified by the fire marshal who approves code conformance, separating combustible materials, and posting “no smoking” signs. It reduces the causes of the problem.
Contingent action is designed to reduce the seriousness if the problem occurs. Hence, we have sprinkler systems, insurance policies, and escape routes. It reduces the effects of the problem.
Effective preventive action is the one that results in less expense, less injury, less loss of life, less embarrassment. But ask most people what actions they would take about the possibility of fire and they’ll far more likely reply with contingent actions. Of course, both actions are usually needed to be prepared and in place.
This is not transgressive, it’s transformational.
Football players wear equipment designed to prevent serious injury. Yet when a Buffalo Bills player had a sudden cardiac arrest on the field, the contingent action in place was so effective that he is now making amazing progress and is communicating well—having been resuscitated twice after the occurrence.
Yet in Buffalo itself, the recent blizzard resulted in nearly 40 deaths. You can’t prevent a blizzard, but when you know one is coming you can try to prevent the expected worst effects and be prepared to deal with them if they do occur.
Yet almost 40 people died.
I’m not blaming the heroic public servants who have to deal with these crises. In fact, I’m not “blaming” anyone. I’m simply observing that it’s been snowing in Buffalo (and what preceded it) for thousands of years. We know at this point about trapped motorists, houses without heat, the needs of the elderly, and so forth.
For example, much of our power and communications infrastructure is above ground, not buried. Trees fall down in storms, and they knock over power lines. We know this. Yet we do very little about it. It’s expensive to bury them. We can close highways well in advance. We can house the elderly living alone in advance.
How much are lives worth?
We need to stop feverishly reporting the drama of approaching hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, and other inevitabilities of nature, and feverishly work harder to prevent the devastation and deal with what we can’t prevent far more effectively.
They say the best place to have a cardiac arrest and survive is on a football field or in an airport. That’s not funny. We don’t live on football fields or in airports.
Treatment without prevention is simply unsustainable. – Bill Gates
Prevention is better than cure. – Desiderius Erasmus
America’s healthcare system is in crisis precisely because we systematically neglect wellness and protection – Tom Harkin