Thursday, November 8, 2012

Freakonomics and shack fires

Have you heard of freakonomics? (You can read the book)Its a fantastic mechanism for analysing data and then coming up with new ideas that are often not thought about. Often the ideas are based on real data and the ideas are often quite controversial. Like reducing crime through increasing abortion in low income areas. very controversial! So the City of cape town asked me to do a presentation on new ideas for shack fires. Ok so i thought let me do a freakonomics exercise. I decided that the only data that is consistent and makes sense is time and date. What time did the fire take place and on which date ( season). So I phoned the fire and rescue guys Theo Layne and he passed me onto Richard Bosman " Your request will have to be authorised by the office of the Executive director of Safety and Security as it is not a standard request for info". Ok so i got nothing....typical government and city department after a really competent request. Not to be deterred by usual government and city bureacracy and this is an important lesson for entrepreneurs ( not to be deterred by these crappy bureaucrats) and bureacracy you will need to navigate endlessly as an entrepreneur in this country ( which is a serious problem for new entrepreneurs) ...oh i could rant and rave about this all day....but back to shack fires. So I went back to my trusty newspapers and looked at data they wrote about in terms of shack fires. and lo i found a pattern! Shack fires are most prevalent between 9pm and 2 am and most in winter. Immediately the freakonomics kicked in. Warmth and Heat. When i looked at most of the theories on shack fires they showed light (like candles) and cooking as the main problem rather than warmth and heat. But loads of people die in shack fires which assumes that many are asleep when the fires break out....assumption being warmth and heat.  Prevention should thius include heating options and ways to stay warm and keep heat in. These include blankets, layering of clothes, beanies and socks, insulation of shacks, New generation fire places specifically designed for shacks, public driers for clothing in winter, battery driven heaters, Floor solutions and so on. As an entrepreneur using this kind of thinking one can come up with a myriad of new solutions some of which can be socially driven but many that are business opportunities. I will feedback once i have presented to the city on the 19th November. Wonder what the bureaucrats will say to some innovation!