Once everyone has their basic supplies squared away many will soon realize what they have done is simply put a band-aid on an open wound. The initial run on food is just the beginning.
In the last few weeks, we have seen (firsthand in some cases) what happens when an unprepared public prepares all at once. The frenzied rush to grab as many supplies as possible created an unprecedented strain on our “just in time” food system. Basic supplies like water, pasta, bread, milk, meat and cleaning supplies were snatched up as soon as they were restocked. But this initial run on food is just the beginning.
Once everyone has their basic supplies squared away many will soon realize what they have done is simply put a band-aid on an open wound. What happens when those supplies run out and things are not back to normal? What happens if a two-week lockdown turns into a month or longer? In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, critical supplies ran out like gasoline, water, food staples, bleach, and toilet paper. These were basic items to sustain people for a week or two, can you imagine what will happen in a longer-term disaster?
The Ripple Effect
Our system is not equipped to handle large-scale events that affect an entire country’s population. In fact, one small breakdown can cause a ripple effect that, if not stopped, could snowball and that breakdown will turn into a meltdown.
There is a systemic risk of cascading breakdowns—it’s just how our system is designed. If one critical area experiences a crisis and a solution is not rapidly forthcoming, it could easily lead to other systems coming under stress.
We’ve already seen it with the recent pandemic. First, China quarantined their citizens, which lead to a shutdown of factory operations throughout the country. This news reached the United States and Europe and people immediately began buying up N95 masks, toilet paper, and other supplies.
People started cancelling travel plans and directed disposable income to emergency related products and services. The potential manufacturing disruptions and lowered sales expectations coupled with travel cancellations and restrictions culminated in a sell-off of stock markets worldwide. From there, because no verifiable treatment options yet exist, the situation can continue to snowball. It starts slowly, then it comes all at once.
by TESS PENNINGTON