Our Blog for current issues and ideas in Emergency Management
The Pink Slice
The Pink Slice – what you don’t know you don’t know. In many things, including Emergency Management, there are things you know (like a problem you know and its solution) and things you don’t know (like a problem you know but don’t know its solution). There are also things you don’t know what the problem is at all.
Some of the After Action Reports on major incidents, we have found on the web. Know of any others available as OSINT? Please add in the comments. If any of these links are broken, please let us know via an e-mail to email@example.com.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. The following photo shows what can happen when well-meaning people send unsolicited items to a disaster site. After the 2010 Haiti earthquake, large piles of used clothing, shoes, food, and household goods sent to Port-au-Prince went unclaimed and began spoiling, attracting rats and other vermin. Not only did these become a health hazard for aid workers and people living nearby, they also clogged up the runway used for relief flights. In the end, these piles of goodwill had to be bulldozed off the airstrip and burned as garbage.
Diversion of Time and Space
For many people, donating stuff feels good because they are giving tangible items that one might give to a friend in need. But unsolicited items can clog supply chains and disrupt disaster operations by taking up valuable space needed by aid groups to receive and distribute critical relief supplies. Managing these donations diverts aid workers’ time and attention from the task of providing life-saving aid. Also, managing piles of unsolicited items can force aid groups to change logistical and distribution plans, adding more work and cost to their humanitarian mission.
Chandeliers to Rwanda. Fertility drugs to Haiti. As the illustration shows, donations of food and clothing can be unnecessary, culturally/religiously inappropriate, and in some cases, downright unhealthy. Donations of canned goods or food are rarely beneficial, and the collection of bottled water is highly inefficient, as both food and potable water can be purchased at local markets close to the disaster area. In addition, used clothing frequently goes unused. In fact, 38 countries have banned the importation of used clothing, and 28 additional countries have severely restricted imports.
Transportation: Costly and Complicated
Unsolicited donations are expensive to send. They incur more costs every time they change hands and leave a big carbon footprint in their wake. Transporting “stuff” to a disaster site is far more costly and complicated than slapping a stamp on a care package. How costly? Check out our Greatest Good Donations Calculator. What you will learn may surprise you.
A common misconception is that the U.S. government or relief agencies will transport donations free of charge, or even for a fee. This is not true. Individuals or organizations that collect and send donated items are responsible for paying for transportation and related expenses – including customs fees – at commercial rates. Therefore, it is important that transportation arrangements are secured before any kind of material donations are collected.
Things to Consider
Before collecting material donations, you should consider the following things. Otherwise, your donation may end up burdening the relief effort it seeks to support:
Has a credible relief organization identified a need for the items being requested?
Is an organization prepared to receive, manage, and distribute the items you’re sending?
Have the costs of transportation, shipping, warehousing and distribution been calculated and covered?
Who is handling customs tariffs, fees and other cross-border requirements?
Have quality assurance requirements from the host government been met?
From the New Jersey Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (www.njvoad.org).
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 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:
From Wright, M. (2009). Gower handbook of internal communication. ProQuest Ebook Central https://ebookcentral.proquest.com
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 may start a new thread, add to existing ones ourselves, etc. Better knowledge and understanding – and the chance to shrink the Pink Slice a little more each time, is what we hope to achieve.