The End is Near!

I lived in New York City and would see a guy holding a sign saying that most every day.  Of course, you know what the sign holder was implying:  Get right with God or you are going to hell.  Well, I guess I dismissed this well-intended message and just walked on.

However, if my cell phone went off with that kind of message along with indication it was from our government and it was not a drill … now that is quite a different matter.

You all must know I am referring to the false alarm in Hawaii as covered in this USA Today article.

As you read it, please note the real mistake wasn’t the release of the message as much as the inability to revise it and cancel the warning.  We engineers live to prevent these scenarios and get criticized for our focus on things that can go wrong.

This is not negativity … it is conservatism … it is risk avoidance … it is the wiser way to live and be sure you can survive catastrophe.

Asking the question: “What if … and what would we do about that?” is the key here.  It is not hard to design in checks, balances, protocols, etc. when you ask the right question.  It takes discipline to write out all the possibilities, as remote as they may seem to be and then communicate the procedures to the right people.

I began my career working with the nuclear Navy under Admiral Rickover’s leadership with the assignment of preventing another “Thresher incident” … the tragic loss in April 1963 of an entire nuclear submarine and its 129-person crew.  I spent the next six years of my professional career doing analysis, critical thinking, and getting procedures approved through the nuclear navy leadership.  They felt so strongly about that resulting work that it was printed on a placard and displayed in the control room of every nuclear sub from that point on so that no one would have to go looking for it in some manual … remember, we didn’t have Google back then …


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