July 31, 2017
Gail Bower in Foresight & Futures, Strategy
A few days ago I was finishing up a phone call at my office when my friend and neighbor Nancy called on my mobile line. I hurried off the first call to catch hers, and when we connected, I could hear in Nancy’s voice that something was wrong.

Turns out she’d just learned from someone else in the neighborhood that there was a fire on our block.  She was calling to make sure I was okay and that our homes and her cats were okay.


I went outside to find firemen all over the place. This was no false alarm. Hoses from four fire engines connected to 2 fire hydrants and wound their way like giant yellow worms down the street to douse the blaze.

Two single-family row houses, on a solitary block, constructed of wood at least 100 years ago somehow had caught fire. One neighbor said the firemen suspected a faulty appliance. Other neighbors who witnessed the fire recorded photos and videos of flames shooting out the front door, the windows, and the top of the house. 

The Philadelphia Fire Department had the fire under control in 40 minutes, and unfortunately at least two personnel suffered injury — smoke inhalation for one and physical injury from falling through a floor for the other. 

How could all this activity — with all the fire engines, at least three ambulances, and a battalion of emergency personnel, including firemen, police, and medical — have gone on under my radar? How could I not have heard or smelled anything?

So I’ve been wondering: where might there be a fire smoldering in your organization that you’re unaware of? How will you learn about it? And how quickly can you respond?

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