The tragic events of the earthquake in Haiti are unfolding in front of our eyes thanks to 24/7 news services. The world is seeing first-hand how catastrophic a natural disaster can be….and worsened by a country already teetering in poverty.
While this is a quickly evolving event, we have a few early perspectives to share:
-The first 72 hours of a major crisis event are crucial. When people don’t know what to do, and infrastructure is severely damaged, and government resources we think we can count on are not available, it creates a ‘perfect storm’ crisis. More people may perish from lack of food, water, shelter and sanitation than from the actual event itself.
-The human psyche. When a crisis of this magnitude occurs, those affected go into shock and a state of disbelief along with an adrenaline rush to keep themselves and loved ones safe. If resources are not helping the general population after the first 12 hours (medical care, food, water, shelter, etc..), those that are affected will become angry and defiant. They will do whatever it takes to survive and to help the survival of loved ones. Good people will do bad things. It will get even worse when many loved ones die because aid did not come quickly enough. We are starting to see this now in Haiti.
-Civil unrest is inevitable. Haiti needs to be secured by a well-trained military group quickly to keep order. We can expect clashes and more deaths from military interventions.
-Where will displaced people go? Haiti has a population of 8.7 million. Let’s say that 1/3 of the population is displaced. That’s an incredible 2.8 million people that need to be relocated. Where will they go? A neighboring country? Also, how will we mobilize them? By boat? The largest cruise ship in the world can transport 3,600 people. That would mean almost 800 trips to transport 1/3 of the population. After Hurricane Katrina, part of the population in New Orleans relocated to Houston, Atlanta, and other cities fairly easily….and never returned. What is the solution for Haiti? And who will take them?
-Communication is critical. With power, internet and cell towers down, people are turning to twitter, Facebook and text messaging. We often find that the lowest forms of communication are used. For example, when I was in New York over 9/11 there were lines 100 people deep to use pay phones. Anyone seen a pay phone recently?
Many more lessons and thoughts will come out of this tragic event that will hopefully provide new insights into how to prepare and manage countries, communities and businesses through a crisis of this magnitude.
Founder & Board Director