Becoming blindsided creates problems of epic proportions. It doesn’t just cause accidents on highways. The volume of changes that keeps growing, includes subterfuge that is practiced everywhere whether consciously or not. This overloads systems causing surprises and incomplete and incorrect information that is then used in making decisions. Human nature factors in as positives tend to be accentuated and negatives avoided and downplayed. These things impact all of us in one way or another.
Motorists travel in packs and speed unopposed down highways. Companies bury legalistic terms and conditions in fine print and apply hard to distinguish changes to product designs, packaging and warranties. These mask the impacts of cost reductions that lower value propositions and trick consumers to make costly buying errors. Politicians talk about lowering taxes while services decline even faster. Spammers waste our time as they flood email accounts with threats to privacy, identities and livelihoods. We are told what we want to hear, not what we should be told. Even when something is flagged in red, it may still get lost in the noise and not get adequate attention.
These are symptoms of a world that has gotten so complicated and congested that even the most knowledgeable and vigilant among us is unable to avoid distractions and catch everything significant enough to have the potential for serious, negative consequences. Even sophisticated systems designed to detect anomalies and warn of impending disaster are not always enough. For example, weather forecasters were unable to provide actionable intelligence to residents soon enough to prepare for the sudden, severe storms that recently wreaked havoc in the Chicago area with 90-mile per hour winds.
Outcome Improvement is committed to finding ways to help consumers, businesses and governments to anticipate and prepare for contingencies while adding quality and value to life. Your input would be greatly appreciated to identify topics for our investigation and reporting. Please add your comments below.
It is hard to anticipate all the things that can go wrong. One example is consequences of inactivity. Some of them are more serious than others. Some can be reversed, others cannot. Here are a few things that come to mind.
Although some of these may seem to be of minor consequence, collectively they can add up and have a major impact. Not only can some of them be wasteful, they can also cause fires if left unattended for long periods of time. Just like changing batteries in fire and carbon monoxide detectors, it is a good idea to check around on a regular basis.
Surprising things can happen. My thermostat batteries failed prematurely. When it happened a second time, I realized that each time there had been an extended power outage. While the power was out, the thermostat had been futilely trying to turn on the furnace or air-conditioner. This is what drained the battery.
The same thing can happen if a battery is being charged when there is a power outage. Batteries can be ruined if they fully discharge. It is best to pull plugs and turn off circuits when there is a power failure. In any event, when power is restored, there can be excessive loads and power surges if loads are not added a little at a time. Motors require about three times as much current to start than they use to keep running.
It is impossible to predict when something unforeseen will cause death or serious injury. Often someone’s carelessness is at the very least a contributing factor. The disaster of the Italian liner Costa Concorfdia on January 14, 2012, was the responsibility of one man, the captain. It resulted in a few dozen lives being lost and thousands more, inconvenienced. Pilot error was attributed to the crash of Air France Flight 447 after it stalled at 38,000 feet en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris killing 227 people. Carelessness, impairment, distraction, and falling asleep at the wheel result in many lives lost and crippling injuries on our highways, too. It seems an inequity that those responsible often walk away with little or no injuries while others die or are maimed and live miserable lives.
Countless people also die in fires, especially in cold weather. Carelessness can be a factor, but so can poor maintenance. Smoke, fire and carbon monoxide detectors reduce the loss of life when they work effectively. However, they need to be installed and maintained properly. Just like many other things, they gradually wear out and need to be replaced. I am ashamed to say that it took five members of a Connecticut family to lose their lives before I replaced old detectors with better ones that check for both smoke and carbon monoxide. I am especially happy to have carbon monoxide detection since CO once made me quite sick. This was even when I had what should have been adequate ventilation. My new ones also use AA batteries which I prefer to 9 volt ones in the old detectors.
Other things can make our lives better and more secure. For example, the rubber hoses that supply water to washing machines are prone to failure at the most inopportune times. Substitute hoses that are reinforced with a stainless steel mesh cover reduces the likelihood of a failure. Turning the water off when the washer is not in use is also a good idea.
A few years ago, I bought a black box that connects to my telephone. If the temperature in my house deviates from a specified range, it calls my cell phone. If I do not answer, the device calls a few other people until someone answers. I never thought that I would need it. However, once when I was away during a very cold winter, my furnace stopped working. When the temperature inside dropped below 55F, I got called. It took a few seconds for me to realize what was calling me. The device prevented a big mess from frozen water pipes in my house. Now with smartphones and the Internet, it is possible to use wireless cameras and a variety of other devices to monitor things around our momes.
They say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. There are many little things that can be done to lessen the impact of what can turn into major calamities. Look around and think of things that can go wrong with you. Create evacuation plans in case of an emergency. You will find that peace of mind is a wonderful thing.
If you like movies and would like to see how freak events affect outcomes, you are encouraged to see Unstoppable. You may think twice before you ride the rails.