Do We Need Super Redundancy?

How important is redundancy planning in the emergency management field? I would argue that it is very important and without it, one wrong turn could potentially lead to the program completely crashing. I joke with my students all the time that emergency managers get paid to think about the stuff that no one else is considering. This is why I push the importance of redundancy, and in fact, I would take it up a level and argue for super redundancy.

I am an advocate of super redundancy. If you have a plan A, B, and C, I would also challenge you to think about plans D, E, and F. While this may sound like something out of The Walking Dead, there is value to thinking past the two, maybe three levels we commonly plan for. If our Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) calls for reinforcements to come in via a major highway, and that highway is out, we generally have a secondary approach in mind. What do we do if every entryway is cut off? Does your planning go that deep?

A 2018 article in Pharmacy Times told the story of planning happening after surviving multiple hurricanes in 2017.[1] The article discussed the need for redundancy from patients as well as from pharmacists themselves. Patients may not have enough medication and if these medications need kept a certain temperature, no electricity may mean that some medicine will lose its effectiveness. The patient’s plan might be to get additional medications from their pharmacy. If their pharmacy sustained damages, keeping it from opening, medicine cannot be distributed. What are the options? In one case, after the medications in their area were ruined, a pharmacist actually flew to pick up a medication in another city and brought it back to a patient. In addition, some pharmacies are working to add additional layers of redundancy including micro-level planning. Some pharmacies are looking at human resource policies concerning staff attendance during an emergency to help keep their services in place.

Super redundancy is hard work, and possibly expensive, but it will save lives. We work in a field that does not always play be the rules, so we need to ponder, “What if” questions all the time and adopt a position of super redundancy. Our communities and those we serve depend on us to be constantly thinking about the stuff no one else is even considering.


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