Security Theater

The big news this week was that the Transportation Security Administration, TSA, failed 95% of tests where undercover agents brought weapons, fake bomb parts and contraband through airport security screening. Why is a website dedicated to coastal resilience telling you this? It is because we hope to avoid the coastal equivalent of Security Theater. Security Theater are the activities that look good to the untrained eye; full body scanners, people taking their shoes off, etc., that do not really keep us safer.

We are wondering if there is a coastal equivalent – if there are things that “look good” but that don’t really protect the vast majority of us. A better question might be what is the most efficient? What measures provides the most protection for the coastal resiliency dollar. We definitely can’t send fake hurricanes up the coast to test this.

Our guess is that beach replenishment is in the category of things that look really good to the untrained eye. But upon closer inspection, it takes a massive amount of resources, but delivers most of the benefits to a very small number of people; the owners oceanfront line of houses. Even then the protection is mostly from wave attack, and this is only when massive dunes are built. We have plenty of evidence that beaches replenished with no dunes provided little protection from Sandy. So even with replenishment, everyone behind the oceanfront line of houses on barrier islands is still subject to regular flooding and inundation, and everyone on the mainland lining the bay is vulnerable still. No amount of sand on any ocean-side beach will protect those on the other side of the island or the other side of the Bay.