No Preparedness without Common sense

by Rahul Rathi
1 262 5.0/5

Once upon a time, there was a kingdom Raghupur ruled by king Harshvardhana. When Harshvardhana was child, famine stuck Raghupur and hundreds of people died. When Harshvardhana was crowned, he initiated slew of activities for emergency preparedness and response. Agriculture and trade was given high priority. New palace was constructed with huge cellars, silos and armory. He issued a decree to store 25% of grains produced in a year in these cellars and silos, along with thousands of water and oil drums. A deep water channel was constructed around palace as defense and for storing water.

Ravindra, neighboring ruler, envious of Raghupur’s growing prosperity, attacked and besieged the palace. Harshvardhana gave shelter to common people and directed his chief minister to survey cellars, silos and armory to draw retrieval plan for consumption.

Chief Minister reported back in a gloomy tone - “An army of rodents and pest, along with seepage from water channel, have destroyed an estimated 70% stored grains. Gunny bags are stacked vertically up to 10 meters. Unfortunately, some bags fell on soldiers during survey and 2 of them died. Weapons and ammunition kept in armory have either rusted or become water-soaked. Some Oil drums have leaked and oil has find its way to water channel. I fear we may not survive for even 3 months”.

Harshvardhana was dismayed. He tried to keep it secret, however, it spread like wildfire. Soldiers got demotivated, ready to accept defeat. Sheltered people panicked.

But, the Almighty had different plans. Ravindra died after falling from horse and his leaderless army retreated. Harshvardhana thanked his stars and invited suggestions from his court.

A Japanese traveler, Isaaki, stood up and spoke - “In my country, housekeeping and safety are paramount. All the soldiers and courtiers are trained and engaged in problem-solving. Today, we have a huge problem bogging us down – an unsustainable defense mechanism. We must all come together as a team and solve it. I advice following logical sequence of 5 steps – it is nothing new, Just a Common Sense Approach.

1) Removing unwanted items/lost grains/rusted armory/broken drums
2) Allocating designed place for every item and keeping that item in that place only
3) Cleaning through inspection for any rodents, seepages, leakages, etc.
These 3 steps are nothing but housekeeping – we use muscle power. But, Can we use brain power to eliminate or reduce the need for housekeeping through problem solving?. It leads to Step 4.
4) Identifying projects, forming teams, analyzing issues, finding causes and implementing remedial actions

5) Finally, Maintaining discipline for sustaining remedial actions".

Harshvardhana readily accepted the wisdom of Isaaki and appointed him the facilitator. Harshvadhana himself led weekly reviews and provided all the financial and human resources.

Within few months, many problems were resolved – no more rodents, seepages, leakages and rusting. One of the teams innovated safe vertical stacking structure. Other initiatives taken were labelling, traceability, FIFO system, obsolescence and preservation system, etc. All teams were rewarded. The palace regained its true defense mechanism. 

Lessons Learned

1. Emergency preparedness and response plan must be tested regularly through mock drills.

2. Detailed and robust Planning may fail without culture enablers in place – Housekeeping, Safety and a zeal for problem-solving.

3. There is no substitute for active and visible leadership. 


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01 July 2020 by Rahul Rathi
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