I read an article about one of the chemical plant fires, didn’t get too much attention as the news cycles are short, onto the next big (or small) political story. But there was something in the article that caught my attention, the ripple effects, as this was a plant that produced nearly all of the products and had worldwide implications. Then I remembered another fire, and found that article, and the consequences because it produced most of the chlorine used in the country…..and the shortages it would create coming into summer and the need for pool chlorine.
That got me thinking…..and you know how dangerous that is because I started mind mapping things out. Ripples, domino, snowball, butterfly and other effects…..I went back and found articles and started playing the “what if…” game, and mapped more things out. That map got BIG!
When I took a step back and looked I went, “holy cow, this isn’t over, its just beginning.”
An initial disturbance to a system that propagates outwards to have unintended impacts an increasing larger portions of the system.
A cumulative effect produced when one even sets off a chain of similar events.
An inevitable and sometimes unforeseen chain of events due to an act affecting a system.
The sensitive dependence on an initial condition in which a small change in one state in the system can result in large differences in a later state. i.e., a small change can have a large change or impact later, a one degree off course from L.A. to D.C. and you’d be 42 miles off course.
A situation in which one action or event causes many other similar actions or events (Webster). Commonly understood to imply a small beginning, building upon itself, becomes larger the further it travels, increasing in size exponentially.
A secondary, and usually adverse effect.
What do all these have in common?
One can create a bad day, two can cause chaos, three and you could be FUBAR, but when they all merge together at the same time they create
A PERFECT STORM
A critical or disastrous situation created by a powerful concurrence of factors.
or, in other words, the perfect formula for TEOTWAWKI
You all probably remember the run on toilet paper at the beginning of the COVID lockdowns. I don’t think anyone really knows why it started, but fueled by the media everyone jumped on board to get as much as they could. This strained the supply chain, there wasn’t really a shortage, just the inability of the supply chain to suddenly supply large quantities to every store at the same time.
The supply chain normally operates on a just-in-time system. When your products are scanned at the checkout the computer is ordering them, the warehouse is pulling them from the shelves and loading them onto the next truck heading the store. The warehouse is then ordering them from their suppliers. When the trucks arrive at the stores they usually unload the pallets and they go right out onto the floor to be restocked that night. Most stores do not have a large storage area, just the loading dock area. Stores are restocked of what you purchased in 48-72 hours. During BLUE SKIES everything works smoothly, as there are daily deliveries. You see ripples when there are severe snow storms, but as they are usually isolated to a relatively small geographical area it doesn’t impact the overall system. However, when everyone across the country is trying to but everything they can get their hands on at the same time, well the system wasn’t really designed for that.
It’s similar with most commercial systems, they are designed to operate at 80-90% capacity, otherwise it’s not cost effective. The phone system is the same, when everyone in a small area tries to make a call at the same time the system does not have the capacity to provide everyone with a line, you get, “all circuits are busy, please try your call later.”
The current evidence, or theory, points to COVID originating from the lab in Wuhan. If you believe that, the next logical question is whether it was accidental or deliberate. However, that makes no difference in the big picture. What followed the release was the ripple effect – lockdowns.
Lockdowns created a cascading effect, shutting down travel, places where people gathered like restaurants, movie theaters, stadiums, concerts, businesses, etc. That moved a large portion of the workforce to work from home and others to the ranks of the unemployed. As a few weeks turned into months and more events got cancelled cities lost millions, and billions in revenue. The Denver arts and entertainment industry lost $1.4billion in sales, that doesn’t include all the revenue lost to hotels, taxi’s, ride shares, concessions, etc. The City & County was estimating a $180 million in lost revenue in April 2020, who knows what it turned out to be as lockdowns continued for almost another 12 months after that.
As work from home took hold, and more companies realized it was a viable option. People left cities in a mass exodus, both because work from anywhere was possible and the increase in civil disorder and crime in cities. They began buying property in more rural areas, increasing the cost of those properties. Some rural areas were offering cash incentives for people to move there. Just 90-days into the lockdowns there were reports of large numbers of people leaving inner cities, some out of fear that inner cities were a breading ground for the virus (any virus), others because they saw an opportunity to get out of the rat race. In fact some surveys suggest that 50% of the adult population want to move out of urban cities. This decreased tax revenues to inner cities, further straining their budgets that were already strained from cancelling functions and events that would normally bring millions in revenue.
Adapt or Die
When dine-in restaurants could no longer have people inside many switched to take-out. That resulted in them ordering more packaged condiments, particularly ketchup, as well as chicken, an easy and popular takeout meal. Ketchup, as well as chicken, became in short supply as produces and manufacturers struggled to increase production, but were also impacted by shortages in materials and shipping challenges.
However, those restaurants and business that didn’t adapt and change their business model quickly, after two weeks became, “just another two weeks” quickly struggled and many went out of business.
Businesses that had continuity plans were quickly able to adapt, having previously identified the essential functions and services that they must continue to provide as part of continuity planning. This included working from home options and having the IT systems and capabilities already in place. Others quickly adapted and increased capabilities.
As a continuity planner this was the one positive thing COVID brought – having said for years that business, organizations and families, should have continuity (“what if”) plans, test them regularly and improve them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said “I told you” in my head, and then helped people rapidly develop or improve their plan.
The Effects Start
Unless you take a step back each of these, by themselves, don’t appear to be significant. It’s only when you see the impacts to seemingly unrelated events that you begin to realize the ripples, domino, cascading and other impacts that a simple action has that you begin to realize the true scope and magnitude the lockdowns have, and are continuing to have.
The rapid reduction in office workers resulted in a significant decrease in office waste, particularly paper. Paper waste is made into pulp, that goes to make such things as diapers, feminine products, toilet paper and packing products like boxes.
With the need to have less worker in workplaces, as well as decreased demand in many products, production facilities slowed down.
A lot of people, with more time on their hands and fear of food shortages, began to grow their own vegetables, and, in order to preserve them, were buying freezers and canning supplies. Both became harder to find and, accordingly the costs went up. As raw materials became harder to find the cost of mylar bags has also increased.
With less people travelling, by air, plane, cruise ships, etc., the demand for oil and gasoline dropped and, combined with COVID restrictions, plants decreased production as there was plenty on hand to meet demands. As production decrease there was a decrease in the need for corn for ethanol. A byproduct of ethanol production is carbon dioxide, which is used as a refrigerant in commercial meat processing plants.
Rental car companies, seeing an almost complete loss of business, started selling off their fleets, and wanting to liquidate assets as quickly as possible they were selling cheap, and people were buying barely used rental cars at very low costs. Of course all the people that maintain and clean the cars between customers were laid off.
The Gaylord Hotel and Convention Center in Colorado opened in December 2018 and was the largest hotel in the state with 1,500 rooms, eight restaurants, 485,000 square feet of convention space and a 22,000 square foot water park. It employed 2,500 people and cost $800 million to build. When it opened it had already had over 1.1 million room/nights booked, with an estimate of generating over $7 billion of economic activity for Colorado over five years. It closed its doors in March 2020 as the “pandemic” and lockdowns saw all their bookings cancel, it laid off all but a very few of their employees.
Denver International Airport (DEN) is the largest (52 square miles) and fifth busiest airport in the U.S. and in 2018 saw 64.5 million passengers, and 504,772 aircraft operations, and brings $34 billion in economic activity to the state (that’s over $3.7 million an hour!). It serves 215 destinations with 23 different airlines. When the lockdowns came flights were cancelled, airlines parked planes at Denver and other places, and the passenger count dropped to a few thousand a month. What few planes were flying were less than half full. International flights stopped all together as countries instituted lockdowns. In the first weeks of the lockdown air traffic decreased by over 90%. Concessions closed, rental companies closed and all the ancillary services that are needed to operate an airport that is the size of a city, with over 35,000 employees and the largest employer in the state, reduced or cut operations. This was the same for every airport in the country, in fact the world. The ski resorts, which usually continue to operate into June and even July, closed, hotels and AirB&B rentals emptied and all the ancillary businesses, like shuttles, restaurants, etc. closed.
With more of the workforce showing COVID symptoms, shipping slowed down, ports jammed up with product waiting to be shipped or offloaded from container ships. The domino effect meant less products in the supply chain, thus costs started to rise on some products and others became increasingly difficult to find. My daughter was unable to find diapers for my grandkids, I was able to find them locally, and would ship them to her.
Then the government came to the rescue, money to help those unable to work, so they had money to buy the game consoles, thus increasing demand for components. But the places that produce microchips had slowed production because of the need to reduce the workforce, and shipping was becoming difficult.
Meat processing plants had outbreaks of COVID, requiring them to reduce, or even stop production. Impacting available products in the food chain, like the meat, chicken, pork, etc., that restaurants were trying to buy more of.
Raw metals, and especially rare earth metals, became harder to obtain, partially due to reduction on workforce, but also due to the inability to ship in sufficient quantities. This impacted production in many industries, especially machine and vehicle parts. This not only the increased the cost of parts, but the money paid for scrap metal and parts. This has caused an increase in theft of cars for parts and especially catalytic converters, which contain platinum, palladium or rhodium, all rare and expensive. As of writing rhodium was going for $21,750 an ounce, palladium at $2,604 and platinum at $1,092 an ounce. Theft reports of catalytic converters in Los Angeles county and Houston went up over 400% through 2020. In Denver thefts are up over 1,600% from 2019 to 2020 and 439 percent over 2021 so far. Law enforcement advises to etch the last parts of your VIN on the catalytic converter and spraying with high-temperature orange paint.
While on the topic of thefts, crime has spiked over the past year, with significant increases in retail theft, assaults and homicides, especially in inner cities. With many cities “decriminalizing” thefts and other crimes and “no bail” releases there are no consequences, thus perpetuating the situation. This is causing stores to close or go out of business, those that don’t pass the costs onto consumers, driving up the costs for all products. Don’t forget the constant riots in many inner cities, most of which are not reported in main stream media. These contributed to the exodus from cities mentioned above because people realized they could do their jobs anywhere. This exodus decreased property taxes, decreased sales across all businesses and services, as well as tax revenue to cities, forcing more stores to go out of business.
Throughout 2020 many citizens bought firearms because of the increase in crime, and the push of the defund the police movements. Not only long-time gun owners, but many first-time gun owners were buying more firearms as well as ammunition. In fact there were nearly 5 million first time gun buyers in 2020! This, combined with the shortage of raw materials and issues with shipping, drove the price up and created shortages of both. These shortages and increased costs continue today. This not only impacted manufactured ammunition but components for reloading, with primers becoming almost impossible to find, and when you could there are 5 or more times the cost of “pre-COVID.” The demand, and shortages, are continuing through 2021.
As “two weeks” turned into months the impacts of all of these increased exponentially. The lack of micro-chips hit the car manufacturers, with lots full of new vehicles sitting because they need micro-chips. This caused the cost of used vehicles to significantly increase as they became in short supply, with dealers offering “stupid” prices for trade ins.
People with time on their hands turned to home projects. Wood, concrete and other supplies became hard to find, and of course costs went up significantly.
And then winter came along. Winter storms impacted corn crops in North Korea, causing them to look to importing. Winter storms in Texas caused significant power outages, shutting down may production plants, including a plastics manufacturer that produces a large percentage of packing materials used in the U.S., but also impacting global supplies. Winter storms increased the need for gas and heating oil, but the storms also impacted the ability of tankers to make deliveries. Winter storms also hit pork and cattle farms, decreasing availability of meat to processing plants.
In June 2020 a fire at a chlorine manufacturing plant destroyed the plant. It produced most of the chlorine used in the U.S. This led to shortages of chlorine for pools as the 2021 summer heat begins to take effect. A fire at another plant in August 2020 impacted a large manufacturer of other plastic products, including trash bags.
Just this month an explosion and fire at a chemical plant in Louisiana, that is still burning, has destroyed that plant and all the stored products. The plant produces most of the lubricants used in the U.S.
Now not let us forget the cyber attacks, the impact to the worlds largest meat processing facility as well as a pipeline that supplies the majority of the gasoline, oil and gas along the east coast. Both events caused shortages and increased costs to consumers.
Then the great lockdown came to an end, but the challenges continued. Employers struggled, and are still struggling, to find people who want to work, because many are getting paid more by the government to stay at home. Others found new jobs or started their own business, having found niche’s through the lockdowns.
Produces and manufactures struggled to rapidly increase production, as they had little warning that lockdowns were ending and people suddenly left their homes, wanted to travel, go out to eat, see movies and more.
The need for flights picked up rapidly, with the sudden need to restore and bring back all the ancillary services such as rental cars, with rental companies struggling to buy new cars, and manufacturers struggling to meet demand. As more people travel there is an increase in the need for gasoline, just as refineries are switching to a summer blend.
Hotels, restaurants and other service industries struggle to find employees as many are still getting paid by the government “to stay home.” Ride-share drivers are not coming back, increasing costs for ride-shares and wait times. Transit systems, who also downgraded services through the lockdowns, are also struggling to increase services as workers try to return to work in office buildings.
Many people who traditionally worked “9 to 5” have expressed that they do not want to return to the office, or want some kind of hybrid schedule with work-from-home. So businesses are struggling on how to accommodate that, or risk loosing a significant portion of their workforce, which they know they will have a hard time replacing.
Truck drivers are in high demand as the need to move goods from ports to distribution warehouses, and warehouses to stores increases. This has created jammed up ports, preventing other ships from being unloaded, resulting in those ships not able to make return trips, resulting in export ports being jammed up with no room for export goods as there are not enough container ships. Containers and pallets are also in short supply, so companies that have goods to ship can’t package them. A true “Catch-22” situation, and the longer it continues the worse it gets. Oh, and lets not forget the container ship that got stuck in the Suez Canal for 4-days, causing other ships to go around, increasing delivery times and cost, all of which get passed on to the consumer.
And it is not over by any means. The supply chain continues to struggle, supplies cannot keep up with demand, from production to shipping to delivery and all the parts and pieces that go into producing a product and then getting it to the consumer, its all broken!
With the summer weather season in full swing and hurricane season just beginning weather impacts will soon be seen. This will place further strain on an already stressed infrastructure and supply chain network, especially if we see major hurricanes make landfall.
Power companies in the western parts of the country are already warning that they will be doing rolling blackouts when conditions indicate there is a high risk of causing wildfires. The power grid in Texas and the western grid are already struggling to meet demands as the temperatures are already higher than normal. Add to this most parts of the west are in severe drought conditions.
The shortages of aluminum mean there are no cans, so crops are being left to rot in the fields. This will lead to food shortages of canned goods as last years supplies empty from warehouses.
So, if you haven’t figured it out yet, the perfect storm is here.
Do you think this could have been, or was, predicted?
Do you think that economists could have, would have or did predict the impacts of a long-term lockdown? If they did, do you think the media would have given them the time of day?
What are the implications to you and your family?
What are the implications and what will be the impacts to those who are not prepared?
On the PREP-CON chart we have at least three triggers met for the PREP-CON 3 condition.
What should you be doing?
Make a plan.
If you have a plan, check it, update it as needed. Do your threat and hazard assessment, update it, know what is around you, what you are at risk from and develop triggers to give you an early warning. Plan your preps accordingly. Make sure you have water stored, have the means to procure more and make it safe to drink. Develop a food storage plan.
Making friends and connections, create a mutual assistance group (MAG). Bartering, trading goods and services. Get to know local farmers, preserve food if you have the supplies, or barter to get them.
Make sure you have backup power, get a dual-fuel generator so you can keep fridges and freezers operating. Get a generator that is designed to run for considerable time, most are not, get one with an oil filter. Learn how to do basic maintenance on it and have plenty of spare parts on hand. Work with neighbors, share a generator, you don’t need to run one constantly on a freezer, just every few hours if its full. Partner with family, friends, neighbors to keep a freezer full, its cheaper to keep a full freezer full. Where you can bulk buy commodities, again partner to get better deals on bulk food then repack in mylar bags. Restaurant supply warehouses are a great source if you can get a membership.
Train – increase your skills, learn new ones.
Medical skills are a must for everyone and everyone should carry an IFAK with them at all times.
Make sure you have a family emergency plan and a communications plan.
If you already have a plan make sure it is up to date and that everyone is aware of what to do.
Get your ham radio license!
There are plenty of free resources to get your Technician license. Use hamstudy.org for flash cards and practice tests. The Technician license gets you frequencies that are good for tactical operations, line of sight. But don’t stop there, get your General license so you can get on HF frequencies to communicate outside of your area, to find out what is going on around you. When you are passing practice tests then you can find in-person tests near you or take your test on line.
Work on developing secure methods to keep in touch with your family, friends and preparedness group and PRACTICE REGULARLY.