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Protect Yourself

Using Insurance, Security Techniques and Common Sense to Keep Yourself, Your Family and Your Things Safe

Protect Yourself by The Silver Lake Editors
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Richard Clarke—George W. Bush’s former chief counterterrorism adviser—gave interviews in which he controversially said it was possible that he and his team could have prevented the 9/11 terrorist attacks if the Bush administration had paid more attention to Osama bin Laden and the al Qaida organization. Politics aside, this assertion is preposterous. In the book PROTECT YOURSELF: Using Insurance, Security Techniques and Common Sense to Keep Yourself, Your Family and Your Things Safe, the Silver Lake Editors make the point that terrorism is effective precisely because it can’t be anticipated. According to editor and co-author James Walsh: Convention insurance and risk management theories are all built around financing predictable risks. Terrorism is, by its nature, unpredictable. Terrorists are effective precisely because they’re reinventing themselves all the time—to get around conventional security and insurance assumptions. Fighting over who should have know what—in advance—show a misunderstanding about how things work. In other media interviews, Clarke shaded his first comments by adding that there was not “the remotest chance that it would have prevented 9/11,” even if everything he had called for had been implemented. Instead, he said, he only wished that he’d been able to anticipate the attacks. According to Walsh: The second comments ring more true than the first. A key point that we make in PROTECT YOURSELF is that there are serious delusions among politicians about what’s really a risk. Things like the 9/11 attacks will always be statistical outliers. Of course they’re devastating. But—outside of the Middle East—they happen so rarely that they become statistical insignificance. People need to focus instead on the less-dramatic things that, when added together, will impact their lives more directly. What are these things? Ordinary, insurable risks covered by basic homeowners or commercial policies. Law enforcement agencies also play an important role. The New York Police Department, working with city health officials, federal authorities and other agencies, has been preparing for a possible attack with nuclear, biological or chemical weapons, perhaps the most daunting threat facing municipalities in a post-9/11 world. Meeting in secret and conducting complex drills, the department has brought together government agencies in a broad effort for much of the last year. In doing so, it has put together a program that some national security and law enforcement officials describe as unrivaled among American cities. Police officials say special units have trained and drilled, for instance, to board cruise ships from helicopters and piers and begun reviewing floor plans of most large theaters, conducting exercises inside some to improve their ability to respond to a possible attack. But all sides acknowledge that the best prevention are steps that individual citizens take. PROTECT YOURSELF offers some simple orders: Simple risk management at work · Know the details of your work space—entrances, exits, windows and barriers—and maintain an awareness of your surroundings. · Know your evacuation plan and routes. · Wear your ID card or access badge at all times. · Report missing, lost or stolen ID cards or access badges. · Know your co-workers and by name and appearance. · Question the identity of delivery people, repair people and staff workers. Ask for picture identification, if necessary. · Report broken or nonworking lights, locks, doors, windows and security systems. · Be cautious when working late and using stairwells, elevators or restrooms. · Know who to contact in the event of an emergency—including emergency response or law enforcement agencies. Post these numbers, if necessary. Simple risk management at home · When leaving your home, lock all doors, drawers, cabinets and windows. · Always maintain control of your keys; never lend them to people you don’t know. · Always carry your purse, wallet, personal bags, cellular phones or briefcases, and never leave them unsecured or out in the view of others. · Don’t write down or give out confidential passwords, PIN numbers or combinations—and don’t keep these numbers in your purse or wallet. · Keep confidential files secured in a portable safe or lockable filing cabinet. National security is, ultimately, served better by these modest steps that by inside-the-Beltway politics. Clarke told the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States that Bush and his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, ignored al Qaida before the attacks. He said his access to senior officials was cut off by the new Bush administration, which he said did not consider terrorism to be an “urgent problem.” Clarke blasted Bush for going to war with Iraq, saying the president’s decision was his “chief motivation” in writing a book criticizing the White House. He said Bush’s obsession with Saddam had short-circuited the larger war against terrorism. The Bush Administration adamantly denied Clarke’s charges and implied that his comments were self-contradictory and—maybe—perjury. What’s the truth? Americans outside of the Beltway will probably never know. And, according to PROTECT YOURSELF, the truth doesn’t really matter. “Security isn’t about what the Department of Homeland Security or some Senators say. It’s about basic, intelligent steps that you take to minimize your exposure to danger,” the authors write. “The outrages that make the news are mostly grandstanding.” Silver Lake Publishing is an independent Los Angeles-based house that specializes in non-fiction books on business, economics, personal finance and history. PROTECT YOURSELF: Using Insurance, Security Techniques and Common Sense to Keep Yourself, Your Family and Your Things Safe The Silver Lake Editors Paperback, $19.95 380 pages (6" x 9") ISBN: 1-56343-765-1
Silver Lake Publishing; July 2005
335 pages; ISBN 9781563438172
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Title: Protect Yourself
Author: The Silver Lake Editors
In a world where hijacked jets crash into skyscrapers, anthrax circulates through the mail, money moves at the speed of light and identities are as easy to steal as bicycles, traditional notions of safety and security are as obsolete as dictaphones and three-martini lunches. Yet people cling to obsolete notions. This book aims to open your eyes to how risk works…and to give you tools for minimizing the dangers that threaten your self, your family and your things. These are tools that people need, regardless of how many political fanatics are trying to hijack planes. • In the post-industrial world, people are free agents—in their work lives and their personal lives. • The odds are increasingly large that you don’t have a corporate employer or big family living under your roof to help you absorb a personal loss. • You have to fend for yourself, which means you have to be able to identify, assess and manage risk for yourself. Americans are used to having large institutions—corporate employers, immigrant communities, the government—manage risk for them. In the wake of the September 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., many people talked about wanting to return to the comfort of traditional values. This traditional comfort really means going back to having institutions handling risk for us. But the economic and cultural tides can’t be turned back, however comforting that idea might be. Our world grows more decentralized every day; and every person is increasingly responsible for himself. This is an opportunity for great freedom and liberty…but it’s also a potential threat. The threat doesn’t come from terrorists. It comes from our own bad judgments about what’s dangerous and what’s safe. As we recoil from the risks posed by a dangerous world, we surrender our ability to handle…and to manage…circumstances in ways that work for us. Despite great access to data, a shocking number of people have a bad sense of risk. Americans often ignore serious risks (driving recklessly, smoking, handing their life savings to swindlers) and obsess about trivial ones (terrorism, pesticides, breast implants, flesh-eating bacteria). By underestimating common risks while exaggerating exotic ones, we end up protecting ourselves against the unlikely perils while failing to take precautions against those most likely to do us in. Most media coverage of risk to health and well-being focus on shock and outrage. The media pays attention to issues and situations that frighten—and therefore interest—readers and viewers. The shock-and-outrage approach creates interesting stories but warps people’s sense of risk. As a result, we’re scared—and often scared by the wrong things. Some experts in risk analysis call this response statistical homicide—the triumph of long odds over common sense. In other words, the risks that kill people and the risks that scare people are different. A smart person doesn’t worry about what’s scary; she worries about what’s deadly. Businesses, government agencies and people who understand risk are able to make smart decisions and respond to news effectively. To some extent, they even manipulate risk to their advantage. For example: • Insurance companies structure policy premiums to cover their costs and exclude situations they don’t like to face because they understand risk. • Government agencies propose rules and regulations that assure their own importance because they understand risk. • Industry groups and consumer groups publicize friendly research because they understand risk. And all of this affects you. So you need to understand risk and how various interest parties use it. What Is Risk Management? Throughout this book, we will deal with real-world examples of risk management. And we’ll drill into the details of how risk management can help you in matters as basic as where you live and what you eat. But what precisely is risk management? It’s a broad term that refers to a variety of analytical tools, including: • risk characterization, • comparative risk assessment, • risk ranking, • risk-benefit analysis; and • cost-benefit analysis. You don’t have to be Stephen Hawking to understand the basics of risk management and apply them to your everyday life. Each chapter in this book offers practical examples. Risk management isn’t exact—and, as we’ll see, it can be manipulated by people with agendas. Still, it offers the best way to minimize loss of life and limb. And its basic tenets can help you live a good life. These tenets include: • Relative risk and odds ratios compare the odds that something will happen to a specific group with the odds that the same thing will happen to an entire population. Relative risks are expressed in positive numbers—like 0.8 or 5.3—that mean the specific group is that many times more or less likely than the entire population to experience some event. • Correlation is not the same as causation. To some people, a newspaper headline that reads “Bottled water linked to healthier babies” might seem to mean that bottled water actually makes kids healthy. But it doesn’t. A more likely explanation: Wealthy parents are more likely to drink bottled water and have healthier kids because they can afford better care. • The law of large numbers provides a key connection between theoretical probability and observed results of random processes. It follows from the law of large numbers that if you repeatedly take bad risks—or play unfavorable games—though you’re uncertain of the results of any given outcome, in the long run you’ll be a loser. It may be inevitable that a book about protecting yourself in a dangerous world ends up talking a lot about insurance. But this book isn’t intended to be a buyers guide to life, home and auto coverage (we’ve already done that book). The reason that we talk a lot about insurance here is to show you how insurance companies think about and handle risks. In some cases, you may want to buy their products to protect yourself; in others, it may make more sense to copy their behavior. It usually makes senses to model your behavior after people or companies that have a lot of experience in their fields. This book will show you how these companies and people deal with risk; this should give you the information you need to protect yourself.