A Tiny Example of How Terrorism Fears Make Us Irrational About Risk

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Even as tornadoes threaten Tampa, Republican National Convention attendees walked blocks under open skies to comply with security.

walk to convention friedersdorf.jpg

In another item I critiqued the security landscape surrounding the Republican National Convention in Tampa. That post was largely about liberty and optics. This one is about safety itself.

Unbeknownst to me, as I was walking around Tampa on Monday afternoon, there was a tornado watch going on. So for a period of several hours, the secure area surrounding the convention hall, which prohibits shuttle and taxi drop-offs near the front doors, and forces most people to walk many blocks under open skies, wasn't just a huge inconvenience. It was a safety risk that, while hardly likely to end in death, surely posed a higher percentage risk to attendees than the added risk of a terrorist attack if some vehicles could get closer to the entrance.

To be sure, the tornado warning wasn't anticipated months earlier when the security was planned ( the risk of holding the event on the Gulf of Mexico during hurricane season was known).

Even so, if an unknown terrorism-related risk materialized -- a new threat specific to a particular road, say -- the security infrastructure would be perfectly ready to change logistics around to address it.

But an unexpected safety threat unrelated to terrorism?

Well, let's just say that no one started permitting taxis or hotel shuttles to start dropping people nearer the front doors, even for a couple of hours.


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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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