Phase 0 planning

No toilet paper! From

When something shuts down Disney World, its a big deal. Between the NBA, international travel and large gatherings, COVID-19 seems to be shutting down the world. In this backdrop, its a good time to review why planning is so critical.

In my home, hurricanes are a thing, and every year we get threatened with a hurricane of some kind. In typical hurricane fashion, everyone runs to the store and buys every bottle of water and roll of toilet paper. Then the panic subsides and we move on. After getting stung one year, I did some research and found that on average, a hurricane knocks out power for about 3 days. I then logged over a week how much of different items my family used, including toilet paper (yes, my wife thought I was weird). I then bought 4 days worth of toilet paper, water, plasticware, garbage bags and non-perishable food, and stuffed it at the top of my pantry.

Next hurricane, everyone freaked out, lost power for one day, we were fine. I still have the same amount of supplies sitting in my pantry, and I occasionally dig into them during a non-crisis to replenish them.

COVID-19 is no different. In many ways, its less taxing, because its not blocking roads or turning off power. The human panic response is typical, and no matter how often we wish people would not panic, they do. We can fight the lines, or we can plan. In the military, we call it “Phase 0” planning when we make plans while in peace time. The process of making the plan forces us to think about what we need and to advocate for it early, before a crisis starts, so that we enter crisis with a good chance of winning.

So as the COVID-19 crisis rages on, take notes. Look at what you really need during the next week to live. How much toilet paper do you use? How much water? How much food? How much entertainment? If that last one seems weird, just ask any parent of a bored kid how important entertainment is, and you’ll soon ensure you have board games and books in reserve.

Come out of this crisis ready for the next, and while it won’t stop the panic buying of toilet paper, it will mean you won’t be standing in line at the grocery store.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency. Well, maybe FEMA would encourage you to do what I did.

Leave a Reply