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18 Jul 2020  (403 Views) 
Covid-19 crisis

Scenario planning for a pandemic
I read about this from an online source, but I was not able to verify it.

A few years ago, the government organized a scenario planning exercise to deal with the pandemic. The outcome was a framework to deal with the crisis. It created the concept of DORSCON orange and DORSCON red.

DORSCON is the acronym for Disease Outbreak Response System Control.

It sounded impressive. After all, the planners needed to justify the large sums, perhaps several millions dollars, spent on the scenario planning exercise. The consultant fees must be hefty.

What happened to this exercise. Here is my speculation.

DORSCON orange was called on 7 Feb 2020. The relevant ministries were called into action. It was like a military exercise. 

However, the planners overlooked the unpreparedness of the population. They were too engrossed with taking care of their parts in this massive exercise and forgot that there was a larger group of people involved, i.e. the general population.

When code orange was called, and it was done in a hurry, the people panicked. They rushed to grab all the essential supplies from the supermarkets. The panic hoarding by the early movers caused shortages for those who reacted later. 

It was a disaster. One minister described the behavior as "sia suay" - which means "shameful".

He did not realize that people in other countries behaved in similar fashion. The "sia suay" behavior is not confined to Singaporeans.

This unexpected behavior must have traumatized the ministers. When the situation got worse, they forget to call DORSCON red. They created a new term to describe it - circuit breaker. 

The DORSON red and the scenario planning went under cover. It was never activated. The big budget that was spent on the scenario planning exercise was wasted. 

What is the lesson?

The scenario planning exercise is good for the consultants (who earned large fees) and the planners. It is not really necessary to deal with crisis and emergencies.

The alternative response, which is probably more effective - be agile, use common sense, deal with the problems as they arise, learn what works through trial and error.

Welcome to the real world.

Tan Kin Lian


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