Thursday, December 04, 2008

How to be safe in an age of terrorism

Chad of Fraters Libertas posts a link to an article about how to stay alive in a hotel beseiged by terrorists. While I commend Chad's, and Mr. Goldberg's, interest in the matter and quite frankly helpful suggestions, they trouble me.

Part of me--the part that likes to see new parts of the world--isn't going to be exactly thrilled at seeing what kind of club sandwich I can eat in my hotel room that's virtually indistinguishable from what I could get anywhere in Iowa. Nothing against Iowans (my granddad grew up there), but if I'm going to bother flying halfway across the world, why not see some of it?

More importantly, if it's too dangerous to go to a train station or hotel lobby, or to eat in a hotel restaurant, why exactly are we doing business there? I know it's a small world and all that, but perhaps the biggest thing many developing nations need is the warning that there will be no dollars coming their way if they allow this sort of thing.

And yeah, the same thing goes for a lot of large cities in the United States.

4 comments:

pentamom said...

I think I'm going to have to agree with the author's comments that his advice isn't worth anything. Not because I know better, but because certain things in the article make so little sense as to call his abilities into question.

Example:

"it is akin to the security lines at American airports, which are prime targets for suicide bombers precisely because they're entirely insecure."

Have I MISSED something? To my knowledge, there has never been a suicide bomber arrested in proximity to an American airport security line (not to mention anywhere in the U.S. at all.)

So that leads me to think that the guy is operating totally on theories of what he *thinks* about what terrorists *would* do, and totally missing out on taking into account actual terrorist patterns. Or at the very least, he's likely to miss real patterns enough of the time to make his advice pretty questionable.

And:

"it's also not a bad idea to stay on a floor close enough to the ground that a jump will leave you with broken legs and nothing more."

Which leaves you, in the scenario which he posits, lying helpless on the ground while the chaos is going on around you.

There may be useful advice to be given in such cases, but I'm not going to look to this guy to give it. The thing about going to places that have been recently hit actually sounds good, though, except that I thought he was talking about surviving trips to dangerous places when you can't help going there -- so how would you be picking your destination anyway? If I could pick my destination, it wouldn't be Islamabad OR Mumbai -- it'd be Bermuda.

Bike Bubba said...

Well, there was the guy who tried to shoot up El Al's ticket counter, but yeah, good point on the security lines. Probably the threat of a full body cavity search (by a guy eating bacon) if they fail to blow up their vest deters a lot of people from attacking security lines.

And hey, let's face it; there is not a lot you can do if you're forced to face homicidal maniacs, especially if the laws of the land force you to do it unarmed. So given a choice, jumping from a fourth floor window sure beats jumping from a tenth floor window.

Of course, given the choice, Iowa ain't sounding half bad, even if the guy can't make a decent club sandwich. I might even be able to visit a decent steakhouse with the airfare money I'd save.

Or ten.

pentamom said...

Well, I agree that jumping out of a second floor window is better than a tenth (don't think fourth is much better, though) for immediate survival purposes, but he was setting up a scenario where you're also trying to avoid the ground-level chaos. So I'm just thinking that if we're really trying to accomplish long-term survival as opposed to surviving the next 30 seconds but increasing your risk over the next five minutes, you have to take into account more than "can I survive the jump" and also incorporate things like "will actually making this jump cause me to land in a state totally incapacitated state, in front of a guy with a Kalashnikov?"

My point wasn't that U.S. airport security lines are safe, it's that it's really weird to call something a "prime target" for crime X that no perpetrator of X has ever actually targeted. That raises questions about his methodology of risk analysis, which is sort of an important factor in what he's doing.

tobin said...

I think the "prime target" of a security line at an airport is mentioned simply because it's been circulated around the "blogosphere" for the last couple years as a totally unsecure yet congested place. It's mainly been targeted (pardon the pun) by bloggers as a failure in our airport security systems.

So yeah. It's not a prime target in that it gets targeted a lot, but in that it seems like it could be one.