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Efficiency Is the Enemy of Disaster Resilience

Pinching pennies leads to losing larger sums of money.

Everyone wants to have as much efficiency in their life as possible. Cars and trucks that burn less fuel, to begin with. High-efficiency furnaces and windows also come to mind. Burn less fuel and keep the cold and heat out of your home or building.

I can’t recall anyone lobbying for more waste. Maybe people in the junk business, but that is another matter.

The problem with efficiency when applied to manufacturers, supplies, warehousing, deliveries, etc., is that all redundancy is wrung out of our system. Thus the supply chain shocks we’ve seen during the pandemic have revealed themselves and the shockwaves continue to ripple through our economy.

Duplication and redundancy are many times seen to be one and the same. However, it is duplication that is bad and redundancy that is good. Having some flex in the supply system allows for minor disruptions to not become major ones, say in lumber or microchips — or even personal protection equipment (PPE).

I’m not that hopeful that the lessons that are being taught are actually being learned. Prior “efficiency behaviors” will likely return and the lesson will have to be repeated again.
Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.
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