In yesterday's operational risk seminar that I teach at the University of Washington, our guest speaker was UW seismologist and information scientist Bill Steele. In the first hour of class, he used a presentation he had recently made to state government on the development of an alert system that could mitigate certain types of public safety issues during an earthquake. I've seen parts of the presentation before, and was struck again by the message that is driven home: disaster preparedness reduces costs over the long run. And it may also reduce business interruption costs by as much as 20%. Despite these facts, we are a long way from having an effective earthquake alert system in this state that could provide up to 3 minutes of warning before we felt the shock; and that could also be used to stop trains and elevators, and alert schools so that children could drop, cover and hold.
In our seminar the previous week, I had talked about neuroscientist Tali Sharot's book, The Optimism Bias: A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain. For those of you who might be curious, I've included a link to her TED talk.