Monday, December 3, 2007

The uphill escape route.

The uphill escape route.

I have a book problem. At any given moment I have three or four that I am reading in addition to the handful of different magazines I subscribe to. It’s a bit much, but every now and then I come across something interesting that feels applicable.

While reading “The Go Point” by Michael Useem, I found a story about the 1994 South Canyon fire in Colorado that was surprisingly convicting. In the fire, through a series of poor decisions, 12 highly trained firefighters died. The chapter I read chronicles the impact of each decision and I’ll probably write a few posts about the incident. But the one I want to mention today is the escape route decision.

The leader of the brigade decided that the safe spot, that area of land the firefighters would retreat to if overtaken by the blaze, was going to be on top of a ridge. It was not a long way away and at the time seemed fairly easy. But as the fire mounted a charge, with a wall of flame reaching estimates of 300 feet, it is difficult not to call the escape route into question.

The mistake that the leader made was that the escape route was difficult. After battling fire for hours, with pounds of wet, hot gear on, the firefighters were not prepared for a desperate uphill scramble through the Colorado forest. When the call came, and all hope was lost, all 12 began to sprint up the small hill.

It was too steep though, and as the firefighters ran at 3 feet per second, the fire climbed at 9 feet per second. At 4:16 it caught them, killing all 12, less than 100 yards away from safety.

I think we all need escape routes. I think we need plans on how to handle and flee from the things that tempt us or push us off course. They may not be as obvious as a wall of solid flame, but the burn they carry can be just as real. A husband that gets too emotionally connected to his young secretary. A cash strapped business that makes some grey decisions about which money to report to the IRS. A student that doesn’t want to be the only one in the car that isn’t high.

Every day we face our own forest fires.

The question becomes, are your escape routes uphill or downhill?

That is, in the midst of disaster, will they be easy to use or difficult?

If your accountability partner never answers their phone or returns messages, that’s an uphill escape route.

If your accountability partner is always available via his cell phone and regularly returns messages, that’s a downhill escape route.

If you don’t have a filter on your computer and your plan for keeping your heart pure is to just “not click on questionable material,” that’s an uphill escape route.

If your web activity gets automatically emailed to your accountability partner, that’s a downhill escape route.

We could play this game all day, but it’s a pretty simple idea.

What do your escape routes look like? Are they downhill or uphill?

No comments: