Category Archives: Wise living

Threat & Risk Management for Commuters

I’ve just been reading the final report on Air France flight 447. That’s the Rio de Janeiro – Paris flight that went down in the ocean on June 1, 2009. There’s a lot to be learned.


With regard to threat analysis, one of the most chilling comments in the report was directed toward pilots in general, rather than the crew of AF 447.

“Crews generally just undertake confident monitoring of the flight path and the automated systems due to their level of performance and reliability.”

This is chilling, because that confidence can kill. The report suggests that the flight crew spent little time on a detailed, structured analysis of the potential threats. They were aware of the threat of turbulence and icing, and there was discussion around those topics in the cockpit, but they did not focus on the threat and make decisions.

That’s not much different from what many of us do on a regular basis. As I commute, I confidently set out toward work or home, knowing that I have successfully completed the same trip many times. I rarely think about the threats that I routinely encounter, although I occasionally become aware of new threats, or special circumstances.

If I had given thought to threats before riding home last week, I would have remembered the sign saying the road would be under construction in the evening. I probably would have taken a different route, rather than being stuck in wall-to-wall traffic (and the high risks for a motorcycle in that environment).

As a commuter, I face the risk of complacency and of inattention to my surroundings. How many of us have arrived at our destination without any awareness of how we got there? We drove our usual route, made the usual turns and adjustments for traffic, totally consumed with plans for the day or the problem we were trying to solve.

A safe rider will take steps to avoid that complacency. The first step is awareness of the risk. Find triggers to remind you of the all-important task at hand. Develop a standard start-up procedure that includes a Risk briefing and steps to mitigate the risk. Say to yourself: “I’m commuting. I run a risk of being complacent. Today I will pay particular attention to…(some element of my ride) in order to keep from being complacent.”

Pay special attention to unusual risks that you may encounter on your commute. Things that wouldn’t catch you by surprise anywhere else, might catch you by surprise on your commute, because you have successfully completed that route many times.

It may pay to alternate routes occasionally, just to increase your level of awareness.

Whatever it takes to arrive home safely

Complacency is a killer in many other ways too. If you are just “going through the motions” in your job or in your marriage, you need to stop and do a threat analysis, and figure out a way to mitigate the risk of complacency. It’s never fun to crash and burn, especially in things that really matter. Life and Love, for example.

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Filed under Human Factors, Motorcycle Safety, Threat and Error Management, Wise living

This Happens To Other Families, Not Ours

This is not quite the sort of thing I usually write about, but it is so close to my own experience and my own beliefs, that I couldn’t resist sharing it. Thank You, KenBurkey

This Happens To Other Families, Not Ours.

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Filed under The Bible, Wise living

Book Review: No Matter the Cost

No Matter the Cost, by Vance Brown (with John Blase) is a book written for men—more specifically, for those in the “Men’s Movement.”

Vance Brown is Chairman and CEO of Band of Brothers ministry. The book is intended to be a rallying cry for men who are discouraged. He calls men to be one of those referred to in John’s Revelation who “defeated [the accuser] through the blood of the Lamb…. They were willing to die for Christ.”

Brown challenges men: “Will you be one of the saints used by God to finally defeat evil?”

The largest part of this book is a blow-by-blow, phrase-by-phrase discussion of the Lord’s Prayer, sometimes called the Model Prayer. It is illustrated throughout by “brother’s stories”. These are definitely war stories, stories of men on the front lines, dealing with evil in their own lives and with death and suffering.

Brown refers often to a poem by John Eldredge, “Wild at Heart.” In this poem, Eldredge pictures a broken man who “prayed for an army of angels to come and heal him…but God decided instead to send him friends, men who also know broke.” As he tells these stories of broken men, he also tells of “men who also know broke” who fight alongside of them. He quotes Eldredge, “Don’t even think of going into battle alone.”

Brown sees the Lord’s Prayer as a trail map—or even a manual of arms—for the battle ahead. He pictures the disciples asking Jesus, “Teach us to pray”, and “what if Jesus essentially said, All right, this is what following me looks like; this is what becoming a part of the Last Battle is all about.

The dominant metaphor of the book is warfare. Brown sees Christians as involved in a great and final battle. But this isn’t your standard “church militant” call to seek out evil and destroy it. In the end, Brown sees Man’s role as defensive: “Put on the whole armor of God… that you may be able to stand your groundStand Firm” (Ephesians 6:13).

Brown closes the book with another Bible story, the prodigal son. He tells us that at the end of the battle, we can come home; Home to a mansion with many rooms, where there is joy. This isn’t a battle without hope, but a battle made possible by our hope. We can rejoice, like Paul, knowing that what has happened will turn out for our deliverance (Philippians 4:19). We can rejoice, knowing that through God’s power, we are more than conquerors, and we will be welcomed home.

This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers

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Looking a long way down the road

Hindsight might be 20/20; but it’s far safer to have good foresight.

Earlier this winter, I was riding to work, on my regular commute down I240. I was well into the corner at Malfunction Junction when I noticed that the traffic was stopping ahead of me. I had to get on the brakes hard. My back tire went into a skid. Not a fun feeling in a corner at 60 MPH!

It reinforced an old saying among bikers: “Look through the corner.”  Pilots have a similar saying: “Never let the airplane get out in front of you.”

Whatever you are doing, it’s a lot smarter to be looking (and thinking) way out in front. It’s called Situational Awareness. When I’m in traffic, I try to watch 6-8 cars ahead of me, at least. I know that when number 8, way out in front of me, slams on his brakes, everyone behind him is going to do the same, one after the other. There’s no good reason to be caught by surprise, and no good reason to be rear-ended because I surprised the guy behind me.  Been there, done that. It’s no fun.

It’s a smart concept in day-to-day living as well.

I changed careers quite a few years ago. I started noticing all the “old” guys I was working with. Grouchy old curmugeons. Bleeding ulcers. Alcoholics. Divorced. It was a real eye opener. It was a way of looking a long way down the road that I was on. I decided I had to get onto a different road. If I did the same things they had done, I was likely to end up where they were. I’ve never looked back.

Who wants to be the guy who loses his house or his car, because he can’t make the payments? Who wants to retire and discover that he has to go back to work, because he doesn’t have enough to live on?

Nobody plans to have an accident. Nobody plans to crash and burn, either literally or figuratively.

Safety isn’t an accident. Accidents happen, but by and large, situational awareness can keep you from crashing and burning–whether you’re driving a motorcycle or choosing a career.

And looking a long way down the road can make dreams come true. Ever dream about the kind of person you’d like to marry your granddaughter? My parents did.

My parents had a dream about the kind of home their grandchildren and great-grandchildren would grow up in.

How do you control something like that? You look a long way down the road. You start out by deciding what kind of home your children grow up in, and by making choices about who your children hang out with. We spent all summer in Bible camps. We drove hundreds of miles to attend Christian Youth retreats. We attended a Christian high school and most of us went to a Christian college.

My parents invested thousands of dollars to influence who we married.  The Christian college and Christian high school weren’t primarily for the kind of education we got, but because of the kind of people we were going to hang out with. They were playing the odds, looking a long way down the road.

How did they do? I married a girl I met–at the age of 12–at a Bible camp. Almost all of my brothers and sisters married someone they met at school. And–go figure–most of the grandkids are marrying someone they met at a Christian college.  Nobody in the family has been divorced. We’ve been through rocky times, but it appears, by and large, that my parents achieved their dream.  

Always look through the corner. Never let your motorcycle get out in front of you. Look a long way down the road.

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Filed under Human Factors, Motorcycle Safety, Wise living