Margin – “Just Enough” is not Enough

Hurricane Irma has got me thinking about margin in critical infrastructure. As we all observed, Irma revealed a number of limitations of Florida’s infrastructure.

The interstate highways, although quite sufficient for normal commerce and travel, could not support the timely evacuation of major coastal cities. It’s kind of a catch 22 – you can only get out if you leave before you know if you need to leave.

Power was a huge issue. The volume of downed power lines/blown transformers prevented a quick recovery. Electrical damage in the Orlando area wasn’t necessarily severe, but it was widespread, and there are only so many linemen. Our power was out for six days, but once they got to work in our neighborhood, we were up in eight hours or so. Apparently we were low priority compared with hospitals and other more vital electric customers. (I’m not complaining, just saying.)

Then there’s supplies – Around the time you decide to get to Publix to fill the pantry and stop for gas on the way home, everyone else is also thinking they should do the same. Hence no food on the shelves and no gas in the pumps. After the storm, food and gas don’t come right back either, especially with the power outages.

Flooding is an issue of course – The seawall is two feet high, but the storm surge is seven feet. The drainage system can accommodate 11 inches of rain in 24 hours, but the forecast calls for 12 inches in five hours.

I could go on, but you get the idea. “Just enough” capacity or “just in time” inventory often isn’t when the system gets stressed. For that we need margin. Perhaps even a big margin.

Honestly, I doubt we’ll get much more margin in Florida’s infrastructure than we have already. It’s expensive and requires foresight, and politicians don’t do these things that well. I could be too pessimistic. New building codes since Andrew have been very helpful, but I think transportation and utilities are much harder to address.

So, I’m concentrating on my personal margin. How do I create the margin to manage through the storm? We actually did pretty well with Irma, but I’m making a few tweaks in our preparations. Mainly increasing supplies and creating redundancy, backups for the backup. Yes, it takes time and money. I might seem a little odd. People might say I’m “going overboard,” “it’s too much,” but when the storm comes too much becomes just enough.

Margin’s not just for hurricanes. There are other storms in life. Job loss, illness, stress. I’ve been fairly stressed out lately, and I’m taking Irma as a more general wake up call and considering how to create margin in other aspects of my life – especially my emotional health. How about you? Many people have little to no margin in physical, emotional or spiritual health. Let’s be different than that. Make some margin for yourself, and as always, let me know if I can help.

Pete