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

The Case Against Preparedness

By Guy Higgins

The U.S. Coast Guard’s motto is “Semper Paratus.” For those of you who did not take Latin from Sister Mary Attila the Hun and therefore don’t remember your Latin, that translates as “Always Prepared.” I think that’s an excellent motto and one that we should all embrace as leaders and as individuals. I suspect that most people will agree that preparedness is a good idea – until they contemplate actually preparing. It’s the old saw about alligators and the swamp. Over the past several years, we’ve encountered a number of reasons for taking care of the urgent business of today before taking care of preparing for tomorrow. I’m going to take a look at some of those reasons – at the case against preparedness. Continue reading

Just a detail …

By Guy Higgins

I recently read a post by Dr. Bob Chandler about an airline crash that killed 91 people in South America. This article will “pile on” Dr. Chandler’s article to place emphasis on the importance of plans and checklists.

The aviation community in general, and the airplane pilots of the crashed airliner in particular, were guilty of a common human failing – not paying attention to the details. They took off without enough fuel to travel to their destination. For you non-aviators out there, a pilot ALWAYS makes sure that the aircraft has at least the minimum fuel required. Specifically, that is the fuel needed under forecast weather conditions to arrive at your destination – plus the fuel needed to conduct the expected approach and landing – plus the fuel needed to fly to an alternative destination (if forecast weather at your destination is such that you must have an alternate destination) – plus the fuel required for an extra ten minutes of flight. The pilots took off without even having the fuel needed to fly to their destination. Continue reading

Being Prepared – Who? What? When?

By Guy Higgins

On January 6th of this new year, Colorado was digging out from a winter storm that dropped up to a foot of snow in some places while dropping temperatures to -30oF in other locations. At the same time, Atlanta, GA was anxiously anticipating a different winter storm – one delivering temperatures just below freezing and mixtures of rain, freezing rain, sleet and snow. Continue reading

Left of X – Reprise

By Guy Higgins

At a recent meeting of the Colorado Preparedness Advisory Council, I mentioned that I had posted on “Left of X.” The council chairwoman observed that, “We call than left of boom.” Well, that got me to thinking. It really isn’t left of boom.

X is when something “starts” that will result in boom (that would be bad things happening). There is an interval between X and boom – and that interval needs to be considered. In my original post on Left of X, I emphasized the importance of being prepared and able to act before the archer shoots the arrow (Left of X), but I also mentioned that it remains important to be able to “shoot the arrow.” That’s right of X but left of boom. Granted, there may not be too much time between the two. Continue reading

Left of “X”

By Guy Higgins

A long time ago, in the old days, when I was actively involved in considering things like ship defense systems, we would talk about the two options that existed to respond to an attack. You could “shoot the arrow,” or you could “shoot the archer.” In general, shooting the arrow is a hard thing – they’re small, hard to see and they move fast. Archers, on the other hand are easier to see, slower and easier to hit. The problem, of course is that you don’t always know if the archer is a bad guy until it’s too late and you wind up having to shoot the arrow. Continue reading

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda, Din’t

By Guy Higgins

There was a recent news article on a lawsuit against the U.S. Government following the murder of two members of the U.S. Coast Guard on Kodiak Island in the Aleutian Islands. The essentials of the situation are that the alleged murderer displayed increasingly angry and threatening behavior over an extended period of time leading to the attack and murder. The plaintiffs are arguing that the Coast Guard should have been aware of this behavior and taken steps to de-escalate the situation, get treatment for the alleged murderer or remove the perpetrator from the island. Continue reading

Predictions – Foxes and Hedgehogs

By Guy Higgins

In 1953, Isaiah Berlin published an essay in which he philosophized on an ancient adage, “Foxes know many things, but hedgehogs know one important thing.” Sir Isaiah expanded on that adage by observing that some people (hedgehogs) view the entire world through the lens of their deep and narrow expertise (one important piece of knowledge) while other people (foxes) view the world through the lens of their broad knowledge (knowledge of many things). Continue reading

Internet of Things – The Risk Isn’t Just to Security

By Guy Higgins

There are an increasing number of articles in the business and technical press about two inter-related topics – Internet of Things (IoT), and Big Data (the analytic community, not I, capitalize the moniker). Basically, the thrusts of the articles are:

  • IoT (The Internet of Things is the network of physical objects—devices, vehicles, buildings and other items—embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity that enables these objects to collect and exchange data) – The potential for productivity increases is enormous, possibly the advent of a new industrial revolution
  • Big Data (the analysis of massive amounts of data in the belief that it will yield highly profitable insights) – The analysis of the data that is available or becoming available through the IoT, and Internet data collection, can yield enormous increases in both salable services and consumer insight.

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Cyber Attacks Ain’t That Bad

By Guy Higgins

I recently read a post, Flipping the economics of attacks. This post referenced a new study conducted by The Ponemon Institute for Palo Alto Networks. The study found that:

  1. “… the average hacker makes only $15,000 on average per attack”
  2. The average hacker generates an “income of less than $29,000 per year”
  3. Seventy-two percent of hackers interviewed “won’t waste time on an attack that will not quickly yield high-value information”
  4. “The vast majority (73%) stated that attackers hunt for easy, cheap targets”

Continue reading