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A Change of Mind

Emily Wong Posted by Emily Wong, Digital Editorial Intern, Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

For so many years, I have been a proponent of Just In Time Training--training employees on what they need to know when they need to know it.

For so many years, I have been a proponent of Just In Time Training--training employees on what they need to know when they need to know it. So many times, when implementing a new software program or process, employers train employees way in advance of implementation and they forget most of what they learned before it is time to actually use what they learned.

Recent events have made me question my belief in this philosophy. For several years, we have been accustomed to hearing about first responders. These are the people that have been trained to act in the event of an emergency. We have first responders for fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, bombings, shootings, disasters in other countries, etc. I'm sure you get the picture. The US is experiencing a natural disaster of tremendous porportion right now--for almost 80 days. In this case, we had no first responders. Despite the fact that there has been oil drilling off the shores of America for many years, no one was trained in what to do in the event there was an oil spill, explosion, leak, or any other form of problem. So, not only did the oil company not know what to do, there were not any people prepared to respond to what was happening on shore. And, with the private sector and the government being so afraid by the litigious society that we are in, all of the thousands of people who volunteered to help with the clean up had to complete tons of paperwork and a couple of weeks of training in the safety hazards of dealing with hazardous chemicals and working safely on the beaches or water. This delayed the response to the oil spill even longer than it already was because BP misrepresented the extent of the disaster. If the regulations are such that we have to have trained first responders to all of these other situations, why did we not have trained first responders in the event of a disaster such as we are experiencing now? Did we not think that sometime in the history of off shore drilling that something could and would go wrong?

I realize that I have not been very just in time in posting my anger and concern about this. It is because of this same anger and concern that I haven't posted before now. I had to calm down my feelings some on the matter before I could write about it. Living in Mississippi, a state that was just now starting to recover from Hurricane Katrina, I fear the impact of this disaster is such that we have no clue what it is. The economic and environmental repercussions are devastating. And, we're not facing it nearly as badly as the state and people of Louisiana are facing.

The companies and the country could have been more prepared, could have been better trained. Trainers in the future will have more regulations to deal with, more training to do, and more costs to incur. Other trainers will profit from developing and selling new programs that deal with training employees and volunteers on being first responders to oil spill disasters. The problem is that it is too late now. The lack of disaster preparedness this time will be too far reaching. It will take years, maybe decades, to recover.