Tuesday, June 07, 2005

For your own saftey, ignore the Authorities

Wired Article

Yikes, the trip I took has seriously broken my blogging pattern. But no more! I have sworn to return to the blogosphere to add a voice of reason to some things on the fringe. But do not worry, if I have not been blogging, I have been reading. And I have some good stuff to talk (ok, type) about.

But for starters, this article in Wired impressed me. The people who escaped the twin towers during the 911 attacks, were those that ignored the authorities telling them to stay put. People didn't panic. They exited orderly and helped others along the way. There was none of this panic we are taught that happens under such circumstances. Many people broked the cardinal rule of emergencies and fires, don't use elevators. Braking that rule saved many more people. The lesson learned is that the people on the scene had better information than the so-called authorities had.

God has given each of us a brain and he expects us to use it. We can't delegate thinking to experts and authoritiies without losing some of our humanity. Reality gives security to no man, and any man that thinks that he can merely trust others to keep him safe, is hiding in ignorance. God insists on freedom and responsibility for each soul. The Devil on the other hand, desires people to have neither; he wants us controlled, and for others to be responsible for us. Of course, that just doesn't work. Ultimately, neither Communist societies, nor even socialist regimes like Hitler's, provided real security. Security does not come from experts.

Full article from Wired

For nearly four years - steadily, seriously, and with the unsentimental rigor for which we love them - civil engineers have been studying the destruction of the World Trade Center towers, sifting the tragedy for its lessons. And it turns out that one of the lessons is: Disobey authority. In a connected world, ordinary people often have access to better information than officials do.

Proof can be found in the 298-page draft report issued in April by the National Institute on Standards and Technology called Occupant Behavior, Egress, and Emergency Communications. (In layman's terms, that's who got out of the buildings, how they got out, and why.) It's an eloquent document, in many ways. The report confirms a chilling fact that was widely covered in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. After both buildings were burning, many calls to 911 resulted in advice to stay put and wait for rescue. Also, occupants of the towers had been trained to use the stairs, not the elevators, in case of evacuation.

Fortunately, this advice was mostly ignored. According to the engineers, use of elevators in the early phase of the evacuation, along with the decision to not stay put, saved roughly 2,500 lives. This disobedience had nothing to do with panic. The report documents how evacuees stopped to help the injured and assist the mobility-impaired, even to give emotional comfort. Not panic but what disaster experts call reasoned flight ruled the day.

In fact, the people inside the towers were better informed and far more knowledgeable than emergency operators far from the scene. While walking down the stairs, they answered their cell phones and glanced at their BlackBerries, learning from friends that there had been a terrorist attack and that the Pentagon had also been hit. News of what was happening passed by word of mouth, and fellow workers pressed hesitating colleagues to continue their exit.

We know that US borders are porous, that major targets are largely undefended, and that the multicolor threat alert scheme known affectionately as "the rainbow of doom" is a national joke. Anybody who has been paying attention probably suspects that if we rely on orders from above to protect us, we'll be in terrible shape. But in a networked era, we have increasing opportunities to help ourselves. This is the real source of homeland security: not authoritarian schemes of surveillance and punishment, but multichannel networks of advice, information, and mutual aid.

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