Catalogue


The edge of disaster : rebuilding a resilient nation /
Stephen Flynn.
imprint
New York : Random House, c2007.
description
xxix, 240 p.
ISBN
1400065518, 9781400065516
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
New York : Random House, c2007.
isbn
1400065518
9781400065516
general note
"In cooperation with the Council on Foreign Relations."--t.p.
catalogue key
6142983
 
Includes bibliographical references (p. [185]-225) and index.
A Look Inside
Excerpts
Excerpt from Book
Chapter 1 A BRITTLE NATION The United States has become a brittle superpower. We are the world's economic and cultural 900-pound gorilla and spend more on our military muscle than the rest of the world combined. Yet we increasingly behave like the occupants of a grand old mansion who have given up on investing in its upkeep. We depend on complex infrastructure built by the hard labor, capital, and ingenuity of our forbears, but we seem oblivious to the fact that it is agingand not very gracefully. Bridges are outfitted with the civil engineering equivalent of a diaper. Public works departments construct "temporary" patches for dams that leave those living downstream one major storm away from waking up to a wall of water rolling through their living rooms. Our electricity comes to us via a decades-old system of power generators, transformers, and transmission lines that has utility executives holding their breath on every hot day in July or August. It is not just modernity's hardware that is being neglected. Two decades of taxpayer rebellion have stripped away the means for emergency workers to help us when we need them. Today, most city and state public health departments are not adequately funded to manage their routine work. A flu pandemic would completely overwhelm them. A growing number of firehouses have been shuttered in recent years, and firefighters must make do with radios that often are unable to support communications with neighboring departments. In many cities across the country, there are fewer police officers on the streets today than there were in 2001, and those still on the beat have only limited access to the kind of protective equipment that would allow them to operate in a contaminated environment. Emergency room services have been a major casualty of medical care belt-tightening, forcing ambulances to routinely engage in countywide scavenger hunts for a place to bring their patients. Federal agencies such as the Coast Guard operate with a rickety fleet of aged ships and aircraft that routinely break down during patrols. In short, on any given day, our first responders are barely treading water. That means that there is little to no capability to deal with large-scale disasters such as major hurricanes, terrorist attacks, and disease outbreak. Like the spoiled offspring of well-off parents, we seem blissfully ignorant of what is required to sustain the quality of our daily lives. Washington has shown little interest in challenging this national state of complacency. Rather than address the myriad soft targets within the U.S. border, the White House has defined the war on terrorism as something to be managed by actions beyond our shores. The rallying cry of the Bush administration and its allies on Capitol Hill has been "We must fight terrorists over there so we don't have to fight them here." What this ignores is that terrorists can still come hereand, worse yet, are being made here. When it comes to natural disasters, both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue rationalize their passivity by citing deference to governors and mayors and the private sector. With the exception of the nation's capital and military bases, our national infrastructure lies within the jurisdictions of individual states and cities and is largely owned and operated by private entities. And emergency response has traditionally been a local responsibility. The most compelling lesson we should have learned on 9/11 is that our borders are unable to provide an effective barrier against the modern terrorist threat. The al-Qaeda operatives who carried out the attacks on New York and Washington had been residing in the United States. They did not strike us with weapons of mass destruction provided by a rogue state but turned four domestic airliners into their equivalents. The Madrid train attacks in March 2004, the
First Chapter
Chapter 1

A BRITTLE NATION

The United States has become a brittle superpower. We are the world’s economic and cultural 900-pound gorilla and spend more on our military muscle than the rest of the world combined. Yet we increasingly behave like the occupants of a grand old mansion who have given up on investing in its upkeep. We depend on complex infrastructure built by the hard labor, capital, and ingenuity of our forbears, but we seem oblivious to the fact that it is aging—and not very gracefully. Bridges are outfitted with the civil engineering equivalent of a diaper. Public works departments construct “temporary” patches for dams that leave those living downstream one major storm away from waking up to a wall of water rolling through their living rooms. Our electricity comes to us via a decades-old system of power generators, transformers, and transmission lines that has utility executives holding their breath on every hot day in July or August.

It is not just modernity’s hardware that is being neglected. Two decades of taxpayer rebellion have stripped away the means for emergency workers to help us when we need them. Today, most city and state public health departments are not adequately funded to manage their routine work. A flu pandemic would completely overwhelm them. A growing number of firehouses have been shuttered in recent years, and firefighters must make do with radios that often are unable to support communications with neighboring departments. In many cities across the country, there are fewer police officers on the streets today than there were in 2001, and those still on the beat have only limited access to the kind of protective equipment that would allow them to operate in a contaminated environment. Emergency room services have been a major casualty of medical care belt-tightening, forcing ambulances to routinely engage in countywide scavenger hunts for a place to bring their patients. Federal agencies such as the Coast Guard operate with a rickety fleet of aged ships and aircraft that routinely break down during patrols. In short, on any given day, our first responders are barely treading water. That means that there is little to no capability to deal with large-scale disasters such as major hurricanes, terrorist attacks, and disease outbreak.

Like the spoiled offspring of well-off parents, we seem blissfully ignorant of what is required to sustain the quality of our daily lives. Washington has shown little interest in challenging this national state of complacency. Rather than address the myriad soft targets within the U.S. border, the White House has defined the war on terrorism as something to be managed by actions beyond our shores. The rallying cry of the Bush administration and its allies on Capitol Hill has been “We must fight terrorists over there so we don’t have to fight them here.” What this ignores is that terrorists can still come here—and, worse yet, are being made here. When it comes to natural disasters, both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue rationalize their passivity by citing deference to governors and mayors and the private sector. With the exception of the nation’s capital and military bases, our national infrastructure lies within the jurisdictions of individual states and cities and is largely owned and operated by private entities. And emergency response has traditionally been a local responsibility.

The most compelling lesson we should have learned on 9/11 is that our borders are unable to provide an effective barrier against the modern terrorist threat. The al-Qaeda operatives who carried out the attacks on New York and Washington had been residing in the United States. They did not strike us with weapons of mass destruction provided by a rogue state but turned four domestic airliners into their equivalents. The Madrid train attacks in March 2004, the suicide bombings of the London Undergrou
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Library Journal on 2006-05-01:
Avian flu. Earthquake. Exploding chemical plants. Homeland security expert Flynn reports on a lot of bad things that could happen post-9/11. With a four-city tour. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Reviews
This item was reviewed in:
Library Journal, May 2006
Booklist, February 2007
New York Times Full Text Review, October 2009
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Main Description
Why do we remain unprepared for the next terrorist attack or natural disaster? Where are we most vulnerable? How have we allowed our government to be so negligent? Who will keep you and your family safe? Is America living on borrowed time? How can we become a more resilient nation? Americans are in denial when it comes to facing up to how vulnerable our nation is to disaster, be it terrorist attack or act of God. We have learned little from the cataclysms of September 11 and Hurricane Katrina. When it comes to catastrophe, America is living on borrowed timeand squandering it. In this new book, leading security expert Stephen Flynn issues a call to action, demanding that we wake up and prepare immediately for a safer future. The truth is acts of terror cannot always be prevented, and nature continues to show its fury in frighteningly unpredictable ways. Resiliency, argues Flynn, must now become our national motto. With chilling frankness and clarity, Flynn paints an all too real scenario of the threats we face within our own borders. A terrorist attack on a tanker carrying liquefied natural gas into Boston Harbor could kill thousands and leave millions more of New Englanders without power or heat. The destruction of a ship with a cargo of oil in Long Beach, California, could bring the West Coast economy to its knees and endanger the surrounding population. But even these all-too-plausible terrorist scenarios pale in comparison to the potential destruction wrought by a major earthquake or hurricane. Our growing exposure to man-made and natural perils is largely rooted in our own negligence, as we take for granted the infrastructure handed down to us by earlier generations. Once the envy of the world, this infrastructure is now crumbling. After decades of neglect, our public health system leaves us at the mercy of microbes that could kill millions in the next flu pandemic. Flash flooding could wipe out a fifty-year-old dam north of Phoenix, placing thousands of homes and lives at risk. The next San Francisco earthquake could destroy century-old levees, contaminating the freshwater supply that most of California relies on for survival. It doesn't have to be this way.The Edge of Disastertells us what we can do about it, as individuals and as a society. We canand, Flynn argues, we mustconstruct a more resilient nation. With the wounds of recent national tragedies still unhealed, the time to act is now. Flynn argues that by tackling head-on, eyes open the perils that lie before us, we can remain true to our most important and endearing national trait: our sense of optimism about the future and our conviction that we can change it for the better for ourselvesand our children. "Steve Flynn offers the answer not only to protecting America from terrorist attacks and natural disaster but also to revitalizing our democracy. This book is a must-read for all members of Congress, 2008 presidential candidates, and ordinary citizens who want to build a better and safer future." Anne-Marie Slaughter, dean, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University Advance praise forThe Edge of Disaster "Steve Flynn has done it again. Like America the Vulnerable before it,The Edge of Disasteris the must-read book for every American, elected official, and presidential candidate who is committed to ensuring that our nation continue to thrive in perilous times." Mark Warner, former governor of Virginia "Since 9/11, protecting our nation against a terrorist attack has consumed policy makers in Washington. What Stephen Flynn points out in The Edge of Disaster is that much of this effort has been directed overseas, often at the expense of our homeland and its much more likely areas of vulnerability. Layin
Library of Congress Summary
Includes information on agriculture, airlines, al-Qaeda, Boston, George W. Bush, California, chemical faculities, Coast Guard, infectious diseases, earthquakes, economy, electricity, emergency care system, emergency response, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), federal government, fire, floods, flu, gasoline, hospitals, Hurricane Katrina, hurricanes, infrastructure, insurance, Iraq, levees, Los Angeles, military, Mississippi, national security, natural disasters, New Jersey, New Orleans, New York,, oil refineries, oil tankers, police, ports, power system, disaster preparedness, private sector, public health system, rail systems, San Francisco, Seattle, September 11 terrorist atacks, state and local governments, transportation system, water systems, etc.
Main Description
Americans have been shocked in the past few years to discover how vulnerable our nation is to disaster, be it terrorist attack or act of God. But what's truly shocking, argues leading security expert Stephen Flynn, is how little we have learned from the cataclysms of September 11 and Hurricane Katrina. When it comes to catastrophe, America is living on borrowed timeand squandering it. In this eye-opening, vitally important new book, Flynn issues an overdue wake-up call demanding that we shake off our denial and sense of helplessness and start preparing immediately for a safer future. With chilling frankness and clarity, Flynn describes how we have become increasingly vulnerable to disaster by grossly neglecting the complex infrastructure that provides our water, food, health care, electricity, and transportation. Through a series of realistic scenarios, he dramatizes the prime areas of documented risk. An attack on a northern New Jersey chemical plant could kill untold thousands and cripple our largest urban area. A bio-pathogen secretly introduced into the cattle-feeder facilities concentrated around Amarillo, Texas, would turn the nation's food supply into an agent of death. The destruction of a ship with a cargo of explosive fuels in Los Angeles harbor could bring the West Coast economy to its knees. Horrifying as another terrorist attack would be, Flynn insists that due to our woeful lack of preparedness for foreseeable disasters, the wrath of Mother Nature may be our gravest threat. We have been taking for granted infrastructure bequeathed to us by earlier generations, which are now crumbling. Decades of skimping on public health leave us dangerously exposed to a flu pandemic that could kill millions. Massive flooding could knock out Depression-era canal locks on the Upper Mississippi, starving power plants of the coal they need to generate electricity. The next earthquake in San Francisco could destroy century-old levees, contaminating the fresh water supply that millions of Californians rely on for their survival. But it doesn't have to be this way. After examining why we are more vulnerable to disaster than ever before, Flynn turns the tables and explores what we can do about it, as individuals and as a society. He outlines a detailed, pragmatic program we can embrace right now to enhance our preparedness across the board and ensure true national security. Hard-hitting yet ultimately optimistic,The Edge of Disasteris a passionate call to make resiliency to disaster our top national priority. With the wounds of recent national tragedies still unhealed, this is a book no American can afford to ignore.
Library of Congress Summary
Americans are in denial, maintains security expert Flynn, about how vulnerable our nation is to disaster, be it terrorist attack or act of God. But what's truly shocking, he argues, is how little we have learned from September 11 and Hurricane Katrina. America is living on borrowed time--and squandering it. Flynn describes how we have become increasingly vulnerable to disaster by grossly neglecting the complex, crumbling infrastructure that provides our water, food, health care, electricity, and transportation. Through a series of realistic scenarios, he dramatizes the prime areas of documented risk, where terrrorist attacks could kill thousands and bring regions to their economic knees--but the wrath of Mother Nature may be our gravest threat. But Flynn also explores what we can do about it, as individuals and as a society, outlining a detailed, pragmatic preparedness program we can embrace right now.--From publisher description.
Long Description
Why do we remain unprepared for the next terrorist attack or natural disaster? Where are we most vulnerable? How have we allowed our government to be so negligent? Who will keep you and your family safe? Is America living on borrowed time? How can we become a more resilient nation? Americans are in denial when it comes to facing up to how vulnerable our nation is to disaster, be it terrorist attack or act of God. We have learned little from the cataclysms of September 11 and Hurricane Katrina. When it comes to catastrophe, America is living on borrowed time- and squandering it. In this new book, leading security expert Stephen Flynn issues a call to action, demanding that we wake up and prepare immediately for a safer future. The truth is acts of terror cannot always be prevented, and nature continues to show its fury in frighteningly unpredictable ways. Resiliency, argues Flynn, must now become our national motto. With chilling frankness and clarity, Flynn paints an all too real scenario of the threats we face within our own borders. A terrorist attack on a tanker carrying liquefied natural gas into Boston Harbor could kill thousands and leave millions more of New Englanders without power or heat. The destruction of a ship with a cargo of oil in Long Beach, California, could bring the West Coast economy to its knees and endanger the surrounding population. But even these all-too-plausible terrorist scenarios pale in comparison to the potential destruction wrought by a major earthquake or hurricane. Our growing exposure to man-made and natural perils is largely rooted in our own negligence, as we take for granted the infrastructure handed down to us byearlier generations. Once the envy of the world, this infrastructure is now crumbling. After decades of neglect, our public health system leaves us at the mercy of microbes that could kill millions in the next flu pandemic. Flash flooding could wipe out a fifty-year-old dam north of Phoenix, placing thousands of homes and lives at risk. The next San Francisco earthquake could destroy century-old levees, contaminating the freshwater supply that most of California relies on for survival. It doesn't have to be this way. "The Edge of Disaster "tells us what we can do about it, as individuals and as a society. We can- and, Flynn argues, we must- construct a more resilient nation. With the wounds of recent national tragedies still unhealed, the time to act is now. Flynn argues that by tackling head-on, eyes open the perils that lie before us, we can remain true to our most important and endearing national trait: our sense of optimism about the future and our conviction that we can change it for the better for ourselves- and our children. " Steve Flynn offers the answer not only to protecting America from terrorist attacks and natural disaster but also to revitalizing our democracy. This book is a must-read for all members of Congress, 2008 presidential candidates, and ordinary citizens who want to build a better and safer future." - Anne-Marie Slaughter, dean, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University Advance praise for "The Edge of Disaster" " Steve Flynn has done it again. Like America the Vulnerable before it, "The Edge of Disaster" is the must-read book for every American, elected official, and presidential candidate who is committed to ensuring that our nation continue to thrive in perilous times." - Mark Warner, former governor of Virginia " Since 9/11, protecting our nation against a terrorist attack has consumed policy makers in Washington. What Stephen Flynn points out in The Edge of Disaster is that much of this effort has been directed overseas, often at the expense of our homeland and its much more likely areas of vulnerability. Laying out a series of potential disasters both manmade and natural, Flynn calls for a greater emphasis on preparedness and the ability of communities a
Table of Contents
Introductionp. xi
A Brittle Nationp. 3
Ready to Blowp. 13
Inviting Disasterp. 38
Danger on the Deltap. 52
Ailing Foundationsp. 68
The Best Defense Is a Good Defensep. 92
Getting It Rightp. 110
Tapping the Private Sectorp. 132
Preparing for the Worstp. 151
A Resilient Societyp. 165
Acknowledgmentsp. 181
Notesp. 185
Indexp. 229
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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