pie chart with four slices - one highlights the pink slice - what you don't know you don't know.

Shrink the Pink Slice!


What’s the Pink Slice? The Pink Slice is a term used to describe what you don’t know you don’t know. In many aspects of Emergency Management Intelligence (EMINT) and Incident Command, there are things you know  – for example what the strategic, operational and tactical objectives should be  during a routine response to an incident – and there are of course things you know you don’t know (like whether the incident will escalate beyond your command and control). Some of those things you don’t know may be things other people do know (that’s where Intelligence and Situational Awareness comes into play). There are also things you don’t know what you don’t know – meaning you didn’t even have a clue there was a possibility of this (whatever “this” is) occurring or impacting your Incident Command structure.

The origins of the term “Pink Slice” is credited to former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld who, in a speech to NATO in 2002, stated:

As we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don’t know we don’t know. 


And Mr. Rumsfeld probably learned this concept from a 1955 concept called the Johari Window, created by Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham:

Johari Window
From Wright, M. (2009). Gower handbook of internal communication. ProQuest Ebook Central https://ebookcentral.proquest.com

Here’s an example on the use of a Johari window, from McKinsey & Company: https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/coronavirus-leading-through-the-crisis/charting-the-path-to-the-next-normal/the-great-attrition-stems-from-a-great-disconnect?cid=soc-web 

The Johari Window Model

The goals for this post are to have threads that provide good examples of how to shrink the Pink Slice in Emergency Management situations (it does not have to just be Response – it could be any of the other phases of the Disaster Cycle: Preparedness/Protection/Prevention, Mitigation or Recovery). We have started a new thread of comments below – please feel free to add new Pink Slice “Aha” boxes which are Emergency Management related – or add additional Pink Slices to the existing ones above and below. Better knowledge and understanding – and the chance to shrink the Pink Slice a little more each time, is what we hope to achieve.

4 responses to “Shrink the Pink Slice!”

  1. BartonDunant Avatar


    More than 500 people were treated for scorpion stings in Egypt, when massive flooding – climate change related – impacted the underground homes of the scorpions. Could this happen in the U.S. Southwest?

  2. Mike Prasad Avatar

    A full ground-stop (all non-military flights must land, no new flights can take off) first occurred on 9/11, in the United States. A computer systems fault, caused the second full U.S. ground stop in 2023. https://text-message.blogs.archives.gov/2021/09/10/shutting-down-the-sky-the-federal-aviation-administration-on-9-11/

    Details of the United Kingdom’s Civil Aviation Authority’s plans for a full ground stop. OSINT indicates they have one, but it has never been activated/implemented across this country.

    Which other countries have formal plans to ground airlines in their airspace – and for what reasons?

    Did not know that there is a clause in all airline insurance policies, which will effectively ground every commercial flight around the world, if war breaks out between two or more of the top five nations.

    The war risk coverage under both hull and liability insurance terminates automatically upon outbreak of war (whether or not declared) between any two or more of France, China, Russia, United Kingdom, U.S., or hostile detonation of any weapon of war employing nuclear fission, etc. (AVN52E; LSW 555D).


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The Importance of LIP

What is LIP? It’s an acronym for Life Safety, Incident Stabilization and Property Protection – and those three areas – in that order are the top-line Priorities or Objective Categories of any incident response operation. They must always occur, and be prioritized in that order when it comes to creating Strategies and Tactics on the Operation. When you are considering a Mission Assignment, ask yourself: Does it fit this criteria? Are we making sure our team is safe at all times? Remember Responder Life Safety is always the number 1 priority.

And for our healthcare professional folks – our “LIP” is different from the LIP you may be familiar with: Licensed Independent Practitioners.

Joint Commission Hospital Accreditation
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