The Unthinkable by Amanda Ripley

I’ve just updated the Risk Quotes page with a few lines from Amanda Ripley’s book  The Unthinkable. It’s an excellent read for anyone responsible for business continuity planning, risk management or even if your are just the fire warden on your floor or worry about what to do when you are caught in a huge crowd.

I organized the evacuation drill on my floor last Fall. Despite training half-a-dozen fire wardens, putting up signs, emailing all 130 staff a few times before the event, I think fewer than 5% actually made it to the recovery site. I recognize that it was raining and we were about 30 floors up, but there was no excuse for that weak effort.

Ripley describes the ways that people behave and think in an emergency (e.g., evacuating a banquet hall during a fire or the WTC on September 11, 2001) and explains why some people panic while others freeze.

My takeaway: training (doing) is the most important thing. Ripley writes on page 49:  “The best warnings are like the best ads: consistent, easily understood, specific, frequently repeated, personal, accurate, and targeted.” Despite my communication efforts, unless I can make people really evacuate and really walk down the stairs before the catastrophe strikes, when a real event occurs, I fear everyone will probably perish (except me because I am gonna be so outta there…)

Again: risk management is important, we just dont have time for it.

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