Disaster Information is Like Duct Tape

You may be wondering what these two things have in common.  Believe it or not, they have a lot more in common than you think.

There is a lot of discussion these days regarding how information can help in disasters.  But is hard to pinpoint exactly why or how it can help.  This is a lot like duct tape.

You carry duct tape around, maybe in your car or in your basement.  It is there because one day you might need it.  It is such a versatile product that you must have it available just in case something happens.  

Information is similar in that you want to keep as much of it as around just in case you need it.  You may not know why or how you will use it, but you know you will one day.  You want to be prepared when that day comes.

But what if you could have a little better idea of why or how that information (or duct tape) is needed?  This would help so much with optimizing what you collect in the first place so you are not spinning your wheels collecting and managing useless information.  You could also have more relevant information available to you when the time comes rather having to dig through a digital information haystack to find a needle.  

To draw an analogy, what if you knew that one of the reasons you would need duct tape is to cover electrical cord for an impromptu emergency operations center?  Could a light duty grey duct tape do the job?  Sure, but having a heavy duty duct tape that is red or yellow would be more helpful and practical.  The added color and reliability of heavy duty tape helps improve your safety precautions.  Now you know you should have at least a few roles of heavy duty colored tape.  

What is the lesson here?  Try to figure out in as much detail the most useful information you might  need for a disaster and focus on developing processes and systems that help collect, manage, and share this particular information.  Start small and grow from there.  Don't try to capture every possible piece of information, it is a daunting and unrealistic task.  It is better to have 20% of the right information than 100% of the wrong information.