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How Preparation Wards Off Chaos

By News Creatives Authors , in Business , at October 5, 2021

Be Prepared. 

That concise, all-inclusive life lesson is burned into the brain of anyone who’s ever put on a Scout uniform.

Scout or not, though, Americans are weaned on the primacy of preparedness from the time we are in grade school.

During my boyhood in the windy city of Chicago, our schools diligently drilled into us what to do if confronted by the catastrophic power of tornados or hurricanes.

In my book Iconoclasm, I explain the protocol we followed. During the drill, when we heard an alarm, we knew to walk—never run—into the hall, kneel in front of the interior, windowless wall, and cover the back of our neck with our hands. That was the tornado sheltering technique.

I could cite any number of other examples of how we are conditioned to deal with the possibility or actuality of disaster. 

In air travel, moments before every takeoff, we are given the exact same detailed demonstration that clearly illustrates which steps to take in case of emergency.


The same simplicity and discipline of preparation is a principle that could have helped America’s ongoing struggle to overcome—and escape from—the fiendish COVID pandemic. 

We set aside each September as National Preparedness Month (ready.gov/september). The ready.gov “September” web page indicates that the annual observance is designed “to raise awareness about the importance of preparing for disasters and emergencies that could happen at any time.” The site adds, “The 2021 theme is ‘Prepare to Protect. Preparing for disasters is protecting everyone you love.’” Now more than ever we should be taking the spirit of this month to heart. 

And while we’ve been given governmental guidance, communicating with clarity has been elusive. We need a definitive organizing principle to guide us, an easily accessed and easily understood rating system, serving as a benchmark for how we should react and regroup, in the face of conflicting news reports that sought to characterize the dangers of the virus and its variants. 


The idea of a pandemic rating system may sound odd to you. After all, we’re not reviewing movies here, are we?

What I propose, though, is the kind of scale that is common in such natural disasters as earthquakes, where there is a Richter scale to quantify the impact of the projected damage. 

The same type of numbering system is used for tornadoes (EF scale 1-5) and hurricanes (Category 1-5).

There also is the color-coded National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) issued by the Department of Homeland Security, where potential threats to our safety are assessed and announced using a concise spectrum, anywhere from low threat (green) to severe threat (red).

Why isn’t such a simple rubric applied to a public health crisis like COVID-19? Where is our pandemic protocol?

I’d like to see regional indicators that act as a warning system that is localized to our immediate environments. We are shown on the news, state-by-state, to what degree the virus is spreading, by counting infections, hospitalizations, and deaths. What’s missing is the granular information that would help us cope better at the local level to reduce and reverse those unnerving numbers.


An example of a regional indicator is the low-level “Pandemic 1” correlating to three feet of social distancing and selective wearing of masks, while “Pandemic 5” could be a sign not to leave the house unless it’s essential, and to be fully protected if you must venture out in public.

I envision that type of warning system will be adopted at some point, preferably sooner than later.

In fact, it’s legitimate to ask why such a protocol hasn’t been rolled out by this late date. We are deep into Year Two of the pandemic, which continues to inflict collateral damage to our economy, our physical well-being, our mental health, and our relationships. You’d think that, by now, we would have learned our lesson from the costly human and social toll the virus has taken. Not having such critical information at our fingertips—ready to act on in the name of personal safety and public health—is difficult to rationalize. We can and should be able to communicate protocols more effectively than we have and  believe this system can help us achieve that.


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