Baseball, disaster planning and unintended consequences


What do disaster planning and baseball have in common? (Cue Cubs fans, "We plan on every season being a disaster!") Bear with me...

Watching game 1 of the World Series reminded me of the time I took my son to AT&T Park to see the Giants play. It was the day after Barry Bonds passed Willie McCovey in career home runs. I have many special baseball memories with my son. A Nationals game, combined with an incredibly moving six hour day at the National Holocaust Museum with a very bright sixteen year old who absorbed the entire museum and the unintended consequences of irrational fear.  The old Metrodome to see the Twins the week my grandmother turned 100.  The  Orioles at Camden. Fenway, the weekend Teddy Kennedy was buried and a hurricane almost put the game in jeopardy, causing us to wait in the bar under the stadium with Red Sox Nation, and of course, Sweet Caroline during the 7thinning stretch. There was Wrigley, including a postgame deep dish pizza, and a soccer game the day before between the Chicago Fire and LA Galaxy (no ladies, Beckham was not there, he was injured at the time) where my son walked down the tunnel about ten feet from Landon Donovan. A sweet old lady sitting next to us in Wrigley reminded me of my mother, including the fact that when the Cubs committed an error she went from kindly grandmother to sailor.

At Wrigley Field

I've taken my son on at least one  baseball stadium trips every year since he was six. Each of these trips has its own story. Each time it is amazing.  He is the best travel partner, and we always get hats and programs.  Last year, we planned to go to DC to see the Nationals.  Sadly, a week before the trip, my son tore his ACL while playing soccer.  For many reasons, we were devastated, including missing his soccer season and of course, our annual trip.  Weeks went on and I agonized over what to do.  My hero, Bill, came to the rescue.  Bill is a hero for many reasons, not the least of which is his great understanding of a father and son’s relationship, the sight of a baseball diamond, the fact that beer tastes better in a ballpark and the look in a young man’s eyes when he sees the Green Monster.  Oh, and, his access to tickets!!  Bill came to the rescue by getting me World Series tickets last year, game three, Rangers and Cards, at the Ballpark in Arlington.  Now, for those of you who don’t remember, in that game a decent hitter named Albert Pujols entered into baseball history.  He tied a couple of baseball legends, Babe Ruth, and Mr. October, Reggie Jackson, as the only people to hit three homers in a single game of a World Series.  As the third shot left the park my son turned to me and reminded me we needed hats and programs!!  Attending that memorable game was a magical unintended consequence of a torn ACL, and a missed soccer season.

With my son

Unintended consequences occur in every decision that we make.  In some cases, like a torn ACL you can make lemonade out of lemons, and yet, not knowing those consequences in advance can often be harrowing.  Take for example disaster planning and mitigation efforts.  As I touched on in my previous post, when Hurricane Isaac blew through Louisiana it caused worse flooding than Katrina in some areas. One reason may have been the levee system.  Not the federal levee system, as all accounts say it worked properly. Rather the local levees that were built with the good intentions of saving homes and businesses in the Parishes.  Now, anytime a levee, or a road or a house or anything is built in or near a flood prone area, things change.  Impervious surfaces, like levees, at one point of a stream impact that stream in another area.  Consequences of saving one area could easily impact another.  So, disaster plans need to account for changing community development and growth.

2011 World Series program, ticket

Having access to the dynamic data of local building permits, or knowledge of levees being built on one part of a river or stream can prevent the unintended consequence of flooding another area.  Incorporating analytics and constantly updating local data is imperative in preventing unintended consequences of decisions that are positive for one area, but result in negative or destructive impact on another area.  Predictive analytics can help to model the impacts of changes to a flood prone community and assist in better pre-disaster planning and mitigation.

There is no greater joy in sports than seeing your child playing well in something they have practiced for a very long time.  There is also tremendous sorrow when you see him injured and that taken from him.  The unintended consequence gave us a magical moment, thanks to my hero, Bill.  Sadly, the reverse of well-intentioned decisions can have terribly negative impacts in a natural disaster.  Predictive analytics can help you be prepared for those unintended consequences.


About Author

Chuck Ellstrom

Sr Manager, Industry Consulting

Chuck Ellstrom manages a team of subject matter experts focusing on multiple policy areas in state and local government, particularly health and human services, justice and public safety and finance. Over the past 16 years, Chuck has worked on comprehensive grants intelligence solutions, disaster planning, disaster recovery operations, and interpretation and execution of client requirements. He has extensive expertise with the challenges of managing large infusions of Federal grant dollars and projects into states. In his seven years at SAS, Chuck has helped develop several SAS technologies, including a major disaster management intelligence solution. Before joining SAS, Chuck was Deputy Chief of Operations for North Carolina’s Division of Emergency Management where he was responsible for the management of 13 Presidential Disaster Declarations and statewide disaster response operations. A former field artillery captain in the U.S. Army, Chuck holds a bachelor’s degrees in history and political science, as well as a master’s in public administration (policy analysis), from East Carolina University. Chuck takes advantage of living in a hotbed for college basketball but officiating in multiple conferences throughout the southeast U.S. He is also a proud father of a rising 9th grade “soccer star."

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