Sunday, September 11, 2005

Isolated Incidents of Incompetency vs. QC Principles

As more and more reports emerge of seemingly moronic bureaucratic decisions following Katrina, emotions seem to be overtaking anything resembling common sense.

Let's not (in this post) politicize; rather, let's try to point out that in an operation the size and scope of Katrina, some things will simply go wrong. In the words of an estimable military-type, "When the poop hits the fan, a Plan is just a guess in a Party Dress."

Corrective Action is next. One needs to be familiar (but not expert) with industrial quality-control techniques to understand the statistical mandates--but in effect, they are the same mandates one uses when training folks in target-shooting.

The First Rule: NEVER "correct" an isolated incident. In target-shooting, one looks for patterns by studying groups. So you fire five rounds at a target, and THEN adjust the sights for the deficiency observed in the group of five. One cannot correct the sights for a "group" of one. Period. (There are a lot of statistics published on this, most of which I don't understand--but it's a True Fact.)

The same rules will apply to deficiencies in FEMA, Louisiana, and New Orleans actions. We can spend all day talking about firefighters getting harassment training in Atlanta instead of being sent to fires, or Dallas cops being sent to NO while Arkansas cops are sent to Dallas. Fine--but until a pattern emerges, there's no sense in attempting a "fixit."

Another lesson: what's YOUR hometown's emergency-planning department been doing, lately? Does it include practice? And have ALL the communications/control hardware and software devices been tested? Backup power?


Neo-Con Tastic said...

Well, don't ask me that because I am very comfortable with my state and local governments and their plans of action. Jeb Bush is well prepared for the worst and is very cooperative with local authorities to expedite any evacuations or post-hurricane procedures.

Good example: the Carolinas have already called in 200 National Guardsmen to help with the land fall of Ophelia. Sure, prior to Katrina this probably wouldn't have occurred but because of the tragedy, most of the Atlantic and Gulf Coast states will be more precautious from now one. I guess that proves your point. We learn from our mistakes and correct our sights.

Bernard Brandt said...

Regarding plans, as mentioned in this entry, I am reminded of a maxim from West Point: "No battle plan survives contact with the enemy."