Thursday, 24 February 2011

Preparedness: NYC

My connection to recent events in New Zealand has moved preparedness to front-of-mind, instead of actually doing something to be prepared, I thought I'd take a look at a time when I was in a city that suddenly switched off and see what if any lessons could be learned.

A while back I was visiting the New York office of an English company while writing my long lost book "The Ankle Swingers of Rat-dog Land". It was getting towards the end of the afternoon. Stifling an air conditioning inspired yawn I ventured down 39 floors to the lobby in search of sugary snacks and coffee. But instead received a lesson in preparedness, and the publics response to surprise.

Thursday, August 14, 2003, at approximately 4:11 p.m

The First Signs
There were slowly increasing numbers of people standing around, checking their crackberries, and just standing, where only moments before the torrent of worker ants was relentless it was now suddenly momentum-less. I went back to the lift [elevator] where the doors were half open and a woman was about to get in, she turned to me and chirpily asked "wanna take a chance?". I don't know about you but I've been led astray my glamourous older girls before, but this time the doors didn't look like they'd ever close so I bowed-out.

The Assumptions
Meanwhile back in the lobby: the startled stop had been replaced by a belligerence that was taking its toll on the building's security staff. The chick behind the desk looked more frightened than the public.  She was using the words "we'll let you know as soon as we know" as an ever shorter stick to push back the tide of  ever more belligerent requests for information. One of her colleagues spoke to the group so Securi-chick and I got into conversation.
SBW: So I guess, no one is telling you anything and everyone is asking you for everything?
"I just don't trust them terrorists!" she confided in a note of rising panic. I have to admit I had to stifle a laugh. Surely that is the point of terrorism? But telling her that would have been counter productive. I'm an optimist by nature and optimism can be just as contagious as fear, the idea 'it's too early to tell' seemed to cheer her up. Looking out over the sheeple she agreed that panicking wasn't going to help, and I left her, good nature restored, confidently directing people to stay calm.

On the walk home I stopped off to chat with the Dry-Cleaning Guy, as usual a font of wisdom. I told him about the panic mongers working themselves into a frenzy certain of a terrorist attack. He responded with this wonderful ambiguity

"Bullshit! That's the first thing that comes out of their mouths"
He went on to sight a principle that I'm a big believer in. Offering this more likely speculation  'It'll be a blown relay in Canada"

Evil happens occasionally, incompetence is happening right now.

As we'll see in part 2 even in the worst of situations, incompetence is far more likely to get you than anything else. For the meantime I'll leave you with this sobering thought:

'Preparedness' is a process not an event

Its also a catch-all term for people from the heavily armed nut job of popular imagination to the just plain prudent - who have a water container, a first aid kit and some batteries to hand. Just because you don't feel the need for a foil-lined hat doesn't mean you wont feel the need for some batteries and a drink of water. It's worth mentioning that there aren't enough batteries or torches in the supply chain between factories and shops at any one time for everyone who needs them to buy them once the situation has started.

Just sayin'!

more soon
your pal

PS The art work is by the amazing  Christop Niemann


Deus Ex Machina said...

SBW, in addition to pure and simply incompetency, people are often just plain lazy and have very short memories. It is funny to here people complain about the state of this or that. It is exactly this attitude that has seen our rights, at least here in the US, eroded away in the name of "safety".

I agree that it is a process. There is always something new to learn that might help when you need it. I guess it is one of the things that got me started on my path and writing about it on my blog. None of it is difficult, it just requires a bit of commitment. Oh, and being an optimist doesn't hurt either.

The Suburban Bushwacker said...


So true. we too have this strange obsession with safety, probably nearly as much as in the US. Our neighbours the French and Germans seem to take a more practical approach - the Germans manage the risk down through rigid adherence to rules, the French just shrug their shoulders and say either 'that will learn him' or 'his death/disfigurement will be a lesson to others'.

Having GG visit one of the cultural things that struck me about our countries differing approaches was she has a far greater knowledge of what could go wrong, and a BRANDED solution for it. She doesn't just put generic anti-septic on a wound its always a certain kind. The commercialisation of medicine is supported by consumer training!

I once saw this neat turn of phrase 'they want to childproof the world - I want to worldproof the child'

PS you and Wendy are my favourite Preppers, I'll bring my own foil hat and the first round of drinks is on me!

Chad Love said...

Chad's Three-Day-Last-Minute Rule: Get everything you need three days before any expected or predictable (i.e. snow or ice storm)weather event, then from the comfort of your own snug, well-stocked home watch and laugh at the TV news coverage of all the schmucks who are out fighting over that last gallon of milk.

Chad's Three-Day-Last-Minute Rule for unpredictable (i.e. tornado, earthquake, rip in space-time continuum) weather events or natural disasters: Use up the massive stores of supplies you have left over from all those predicted weather events that never occurred. And load your guns.

GoofyGirl said...

Are you makin' fun of my loyalty and adoration of Neosporin®?!

Just be happy I'm not Greek... 'cause then it'd be Windex®. ;p

The Suburban Bushwacker said...


I just go to my mums! my dad has everything you'd ever need.


The Suburban Bushwacker said...

That would be yes