Heroic Actions or Mindless Mistakes

By Guy Higgins

I recently read an article, What not to do in a disaster, courtesy of the BBC. It’s an exceptional article, and it opens with the astute observation that surviving in a disaster is not about taking heroic actions, but rather about avoiding mindless mistakes.

Dr. Leonard Marcus of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health says that, in the face of an emergency or disaster, every single human being will, without fail, automatically behave in one of three ways; we’ll freeze in place, we’ll flee the scene or we’ll fight. Dr. Marcus calls those responses, “going to the basement” because they’re governed by our limbic complex, the base of our brain. Dr. Marcus also says that, while people will eventually recover from that initial reaction and get out of “the basement,” they’ll recover much more quickly if they have a plan and have practiced that plan, even just in their minds. Everyone who has ever flown should recall from the flight attendants’ preflight safety briefings that they are supposed to have looked around and found the nearest emergency exit. What’s not said is that we should all then think about how we would actually get to that exit, and we would do so without stopping to retrieve our baggage from the overhead bin (which will probably be jammed), and then get out of the airplane. I’ve practiced emergency egress from an airplane. It’s not as easy as you might think. Continue reading


By Guy Higgins

I recently read an article in Air Force Times, Air Force: Pilot’s checklist distraction led to Reaper crash. The article discusses the crash of a Reaper unmanned air vehicle and attributes the crash to the pilot’s focusing on his checklist rather than flying the airplane.

Here’s some background for folks who might not be familiar with Reapers and the surrounding processes. A Reaper is an unmanned air vehicle (UAV) built by General Atomics of La Jolla, CA. It is the armed variant of the Predator surveillance UAV. The process used to get a Reaper up and on its mission is to have one pilot conduct the takeoff and climb to operational altitude at which time the takeoff pilot transitions the Reaper to a mission pilot who will fly the Reaper throughout its mission. Continue reading

War Games

By Guy Higgins

I don’t often refer back to previous posts, but I just got a comment from a post waaayyyyy back in 2014. That post was about an unannounced war game that President Obama sprang on his G-7 colleagues.

Obviously, since I wrote and posted that blog, I thought it was important. Having just re-read it, I still think it’s important. The gist of that blog was the importance of exercising emergency and crisis management plans. Continue reading

Preparedness in the Cyber World

By Guy Higgins

Verizon recently published their 2015 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR). The report analyzed just under 80,000 cyber-security incidents that resulted in 2,122 actual data breaches as reported by 70 different law-enforcement and cyber-security agencies. At first blush, it might seem that there were relatively few data breaches, but the rough odds of experiencing an actual data breach are one in forty – not very good odds when the cost of a data breach is high in both dollars and reputation. Continue reading

Freeze, Flee or Fight? Training Makes the Difference

By Guy Higgins

On August 20th, three young Americans, a United States Air Force airman, an Oregon National Guardsman and a university student, all friends, were on a EuroRail train when a man armed with an AK-47 assault rifle, a 9mm handgun and a boxcutter entered their car and attempted to shoot passengers.

The guardsman elbowed the sleeping airman and said, “let’s go.” The next seconds are history. The three Americans tackled the armed man, disarmed him, knocked him unconscious and, with the help of a British businessman, tied him up. They then tended to injured passengers. Continue reading

The Solution to Data Breaches – Technology?

By Guy Higgins

Data breaches have been making headlines on a regular basis over the past couple of years. Target, Home Depot and the Federal Government Office of Personnel Management are just three of the organizations that have experienced massive data breaches. The Ponemon Institute reports that there are hundreds of thousands of cyber attacks annually. Obviously data breaches are a major and growing problem.

I recently read a blog titled, “Turning to technology to prevent data breaches.” I was intrigued by the title because I don’t believe in “silver bullet” answers, and this seemed to imply that some technology would be a silver-bullet answer to the problem. Continue reading

Small- and Medium-size Businesses: What is Your Cyber Risk?

By Guy Higgins

With the massive data breach created by the recent hack into the sensitive records of the Federal Government’s Office of Personnel Management (OPM), cyber risks are receiving significant media attention. The question for small- and medium sized businesses is, “Am I vulnerable?”

In a word, yes. Small- and medium-sized businesses are right in the sweet spot for malicious hackers, and perhaps even more at risk for IT system “glitches” and “employee-caused” data breaches. These are three very different categories of problems: Continue reading

The Economics of Preparedness

By Guy Higgins

I’ve been listening to some of Thomas Sowell’s work lately.  Dr. Sowell is an economist and the Milton and Rose Friedman Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institute.  He proposed a definition of economics that I like very much.  According to Dr. Sowell, economics is the study of the allocation of scarce resources that have alternative uses.  Essentially, he is saying that economics is not about what to do with the one rubber hose gasket that you have – it has a single practical use (even if it were rare, which is the case only when your hose coupling is leaking and the hardware store is closed).  Economics is, however, about whether or not to buy a rubber hose gasket with your money when you have several other pressing needs for which the money could be spent.  Obviously, this simplistic example is for a single person, but much of economics (macro-economics) is about the sum of individual resources, needs and decisions. Continue reading

Should the President Be Playing War Games?

By Guy Higgins

Okay, first, this is NOT a political blog, and I’m not going there, but on March 25th, I was watching Greta Van Susteren’s On the Record.  I normally enjoy watching Greta because she is pretty polite (by the standards of radio and TV talk shows, she is incredibly and unfailingly polite) but she doesn’t let guests get away with not answering questions.  They dodge and she presses.  Then she lets her guests actually answer – she doesn’t pontificate to them.

Anyway, on the 25th, she reported that President Obama, at the G-7 summit in Brussels, was engaging with the other G-7 heads of state in a war game aimed at possible Russian actions in Eastern Europe.  Greta appeared to be incensed that the President would be wasting his time (and our money) playing games!!  She asked her audience if we thought that the president should be playing games.  Well, I was incensed. Continue reading

“Two Guys with Great Athletic Ability …”

By Guy Higgins

I was watching the Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers in one of the NFL playoff games over the weekend, and one of the announcers (some of whom can actually construct grammatically correct and meaningful sentences) said (talking about the two opposing quarterbacks), “There are two guys with great athletic ability.”

That immediately struck me as a silly thing to say.  They are professional athletes – arguably among the very best professional athletes in the country.  Of course they have great athletic ability.  That, however, is not why they are in the playoffs.  Those two men (and their counterparts on other playoff teams) are there because they have great intellectual ability in addition to their athletic abilities.  It isn’t good enough to be big and fast and strong and quick.  They have to be able to use those raw physical abilities with intelligence and with experience. Continue reading