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In case you haven’t heard, we are having a little gasoline problem here in Nashville. The problem is that most of he gas stations don’t have ANY gas.
This is very scary for the less-than-obvious reasons.
The basic problem is that a rumor started that Nashville was going to run out of gas. From what I heard the rumor seemed to be based on a pipeline that runs to Nashville from Houston, TX. Supposedly that pipeline was only going to be running at 25% for a month. As this rumor spread people started lining up at gas stations. First regular sold out, then mid grade, and last night I saw people lining up 50 deep to buy Premium gas at $4.40. Not only were they filling up their cars, but they were also filling up extra gas cans, lawn mowers, etc. It was completely irrational.
People were lining up 50 deep to buy gas at $4.40.
This morning I saw gasbuddy.com had a station in the Nashville area listed as selling gas for $4.79. I am sure people were lining up for it. As I was riding my bike around this morning I saw people lining up at Kroger in anticipation of a tanker truck showing up. It was completely irrational.
Irrational, but understandable.
People have panicked and there hasn’t really been a calming voice. Until this morning, most of the media (new and traditional) has exacerbated the problem. TV stations started broadcasting lines of cars. It was like 1973 all over again. News Channel 5 had their helicopter up in the air broadcasting lines at gas stations. The Tennessean reacted by publishing which station still had gas. Even the well-educated early adopters of Twitter helped spread panic by trying to be helpful and listing which stations still had gas. By the time of the evening news every single station had camera crews filming lines of cars at gas stations.
Where was the local leadership?
Why did Mayor Karl Dean not give a prime time televised address explaining the gas supply situation? Maybe he was too busy to give a televised address; maybe he was driving all over town looking for gas. (Lots of people drove great distances yesterday to fill up on gas). If I was the Mayor of Nashville yesterday here is what I would have done:
- Hopefully I would have been closely watching Hurricane Ike to know how it was affect gas supplies in Nashville.
- As soon as I heard that people were lining up at gas stations I would have talked to every major area distributor to see if they were expecting supply disruptions.
- I would have then immediately sent out a press release injecting facts into the situation. The press release would have stated the details on any supply disruption, provided details on how long any supply shortage would last, and encourage conservation and rational buying habits.
- I would have picked up the phone and called The Nashville Post and strongly asked them to redistribute the press release. (The Nashville Post is a subscription only breaking news service with a readership full of leaders and influencers. They sent an email yesterday afternoon titled “Don’t pass gas. You might need it.”)
- I would have given a prime time televised address restating the information from the press release as well as any new information.
I think with those 5 simple steps the panic could have been avoided. All we as a community needed was some effective leadership.
From watching the past 24 hours in Nashville I wonder if there is a growing universal sub-concious feeling that something is terribly wrong. Does this sub-concious lead us to assume bad situations are much worse than they really are? Wouldn’t this make us more susceptible to irrational behavior?
Update: Apparently the Nashville Gas Panic is now a national story.