Experts in risk analysis have a model they use to describe the dynamics of disasters and our efforts to prevent them.  It’s called the cumulative act effect, or more frequently (and popularly) the Swiss cheese model.  In short, it imagines the systems we put in place to prevent accidents and disasters like layers of Swiss cheese.  No system is perfect, so it will have holes in it — but if you have multiple layers between a force and its outcome, that force will only get through if there’s a hole in each layer that lines up. The more layers you have, the less likely it is that those holes will all line up.

I was thinking about this in the context of the tragedy in Orlando last Sunday morning. Despite the shouting that’s going on everywhere, it’s becoming quite clear there are many contributing factors, and more than one thing we need to do if we are to attempt to prevent such a thing happening again.

We need to severely limit access to guns — most especially assault rifles like the AR15. Yes, that wouldn’t be a guarantee.  Someone determined enough could still get one if they really wanted to.  That’s why the model uses Swiss cheese — no system is perfect. It will have holes in it.  But it would be far, far better than the free for all we have now.

We need to improve the way we track individuals who pose a danger to society — whether that be terrorists of any motivation or those who have become dangerous and violent just on general principles.

We need to improve the recognition and the treatment of mental illness.  We need to foster an environment where those who have problems feel safe in seeking help and have complete access to that help whenever it is needed.

And finally, we need to continue driving toward a world where all LGBTQ people are accepted and loved for exactly what they are: fellow human beings making their way through this life as best they can, same as the rest of us.  A world where we don’t hate anyone for who they are, and don’t drive them to hate themselves either.

We could do a lot toward toning down the general hatefulness and brutality in our culture and discourse, too.  That’s another blog post all by itself.

None of these things by themselves will guarantee to prevent another Orlando type tragedy.  Not even all of them combined can guarantee that.  But each is one more layer of protection and prevention.  It would be something.

And right now we have nothing at all.


Preventing the next Orlando — the Cumulative Act Effect
Tagged on:             

Leave a Reply