Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Does This Strike Anyone Else As An Over-reaction?

At tale of two bomb scares...

Take One

This week Two World Financial Center, a 44 story, 2.4 million square foot office building in New York City, was completely evacuated because someone was concerned a gag hand grenade plaque might be a real grenade? Even if it were a real Mk2 hand grenade - which has a bursting radius of 10 meters - is dumping the entire building required?  How about simply clearing the floor where it was found? A "belt and suspenders type" could add the floor above it and below, but all 44 floors? Seems like a serious overabundance of caution by people who have seen one too many Hollywood special effects explosions on MacGyver.  At some point it seems we'd want to assess the risk that an evacuee will take a tumble, aggravate an existing medical condition, or die in a crush while evacuating an entire building due to the presence of a device - if it were real - intended to destroy a room.

Take Another

In Bomb Threats As a Denial-of-Service Attack Bruce Schneier and his minions have been examining the impact of the non-stop daily bomb threats at the University of Pittsburgh over the past week.  My first comment went like so:

Back in the day some telephonic malefactor was shutting down one of our fabs with daily bomb threats. When a threat was received in the mid-afternoon the predictable effect of the company's standard response was to provide employees an extra long break and then dismiss them for the day with pay. Needless to say no device was ever found, not that you'd need much more than a blasting cap in the right place to conflagrate the usual semi-conductor manufactory. When the fab manager announced the next evacuation would compromise the week's production another response was implemented. [When the next call was received] the threat was described on the public address system inside the fab, staff members were asked to inspect their work area for any unusual or unexpected items, no suspicious packages were found, and work resumed. The threats stopped.

This week the reign of fearfulness at University of Pittsburgh continues and seems to be drawing out the copycats and other nutjobs. Perhaps it's time to quit evacuating before some loose screw attacks students at the rally points?  Will it take a student "sit-in," or a tuition-payers' class action suit, to break the cycle being perpetuated by the administration's reflexive response to the pranksters?

Somebody please let me know if I'm way out of calibration on these cases.

1 comment:

  1. You're right in synch.

    On Take One: I file this story in the "Terrorists Have Won" folder. This folder has been filling up in the last decade with stories of draconian laws passed to supposedly combat terrorism causing over-reactions by TSA and other agencies, various education institutions, incidents of airline crew over-reaction, etc. Some are even humorous such as when a member of congress gets bent out of shape because of a TSA caused delay.

    On Take Two: You have a better memory than I regarding the fab bomb threats. It's coming back to me though. You're right about the blasting cap although it would only take a small wrench and/or wire cutters to release a tube and disable sensors to turn a fab into a scene from "The Andromeda Strain". Also, good point on the rally points for evacuations to gather victims in one spot. Reminds me of a tactic used by thieves in Sao Paulo who weren't satisfied by onsie-twosie street muggings and targeted an off-site parking lot where the company bussed employees at the end of the day. They robbed a whole busload of folks conveniently assembled by the well-meaning company. But back to the bomb threat strategy, again, you're spot on. This has worked at every company I've worked for. "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice shame on me." Fool me 50 times?