It seems obvious once you mention it, but the first step in preventing disasters is figuring out what kind of disasters to prevent. With that in mind, here’s a great story from Bryan Routledge about preventing the wrong disaster. It’s an old story to him, but new to me.
Here’s the story:
In the 1930s, the Japanese government, as a gift to Honduras, built the Choluteca Bridge. This engineering marvel was constructed with the most modern technology available so it could survive the mightiest of earthquakes or hurricanes.
In 1998, Hurricane Mitch devastated the country. The area received 75 inches of rain in four days, and the city was heavily damaged as a result. A total of 150 bridges were destroyed in Honduras, but the Choluteca Bridge survived. [But] the river was [now] running around the bridge, [not under it].
In short, modern technology saved the bridge, but not its usefulness. Click on the picture to get the full effect. We’ve heard similar comments about MH370. Modern aircraft are extremely safe, so when something goes wrong, it’s almost certain to be wildly improbable.