Thursday , May 28 2020
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Diverse systems work better than centralised ones

Summary:
Back in 1948, Lou Weitzman, a young reporter in Arizona, witnessed a house fire. It was in a rural area, which had no fire department to help. So he bought a fire engine and went door to door asking people to subscribe to a new fire service. His company, Rural Metro, is still fighting fires today.Indeed, Weitzeman provided a better and cheaper service than the city did. While city firefighters mostly sat in the fire station playing cards, he used people with regular jobs, who could be called out instantly to assist. And instead of having a few large trucks located in the busy centre of town, he used lots of smaller, nimbler ones, that could be parked around the whole area and provide that vital first response much quicker.One lesson for pandemic planning is that, it’s pointless to preserve

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Back in 1948, Lou Weitzman, a young reporter in Arizona, witnessed a house fire. It was in a rural area, which had no fire department to help. So he bought a fire engine and went door to door asking people to subscribe to a new fire service. His company, Rural Metro, is still fighting fires today.

Indeed, Weitzeman provided a better and cheaper service than the city did. While city firefighters mostly sat in the fire station playing cards, he used people with regular jobs, who could be called out instantly to assist. And instead of having a few large trucks located in the busy centre of town, he used lots of smaller, nimbler ones, that could be parked around the whole area and provide that vital first response much quicker.

One lesson for pandemic planning is that, it’s pointless to preserve huge capacity for rare events. Just make sure that you can pull down that capacity when they happen. By having a volunteer service of former healthcare workers, for example. Or agreements with companies that in emergencies they will switch their production to whatever equipment is required.

The second lesson is that diverse systems work better than centralised ones. Germany, with a much more localised healthcare system, managed the crisis better than we have.

Testing, too, only took off when Public Health England stood out of the way and private labs stepped in.

So that’s the third lesson: don’t let bureaucratic control stand in the way of people who can help.

 

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Dr. Eamonn Butler
Eamonn Butler is Director of the Adam Smith Institute, rated one of the world’s leading policy think-tanks. He has degrees in economics, philosophy and psychology, gaining a PhD from the University of St Andrews in 1978.

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