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Americans at Risk: Why We Are Not Prepared for Megadisasters and What We Can Do Hardcover – Deckle Edge, August 22, 2006

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This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (August 22, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307265269
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307265265
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,408,366 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“Preparing for major disasters is one of the most difficult challenges we face. This fresh look at what’s at stake is a must-read for opinion leaders, elected officials, and, especially, for American citizens who want to know what each of us can–and should–do now.”
–Dr. Robert Kadlec, Staff Director, U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Bioterrorism and Public Health Preparedness

“In his compelling book, Dr. Redlener makes a stirring argument about what’s wrong with our approach to preventing and responding to megadisasters. The descriptions of what actually happens in a large-scale catastrophe are eye-opening. The good news is that the book also tells us what can be done–by governments and individuals–to reduce the devastation of future disasters.”
–President William J. Clinton

“If you are skeptical of White House claims, FEMA’s stated plans, Homeland Security’s policy or DOD’s assessments, do what I have done for more than thirty years, find out what Dr. Irwin Redlener thinks. He has been an unbiased, golden source to reporters who want real answers in our troubled times.”
–Fred Francis, Senior Correspondent, NBC News

About the Author

Dr. Irwin Redlener is the director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and president of the Children's Health Fund, which he cofounded with singer Paul Simon. He has three children and lives with his wife in New York City.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By George G. Dumigan on September 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Dr. Redlener talks about the following five megadisasters and what can be done to improve our response to them: an outbreak of avian flu in New York City; and earthquake in Seattle and the Puget Sound; the detonation of a nuclear bomb in a major city; an accidental chlorine release in a tornado-risk zone; and, finally, the targeting of American children by terrorists. After the interesting discussion of each megadisaster, Dr. Redlener points out the many things we can do to improve our response to them.

He very thoughtfully discusses the four barriers that prevent Americans from being in a state of optimal readiness. The first barrier is the lack of goals and accountability assigned to the monies given by the Feds. The second barrier is the failure to imagine the consequences of situations before they happen. In one example of this barrier, he talks about the fact that all nursing homes in New Orleans were required to have an emergency evacuation plan, and they did. However, all the plans called for evacuating residents to other nursing homes. After Katrina 80% of the nursing homes were damaged and the flooding made them inaccessible. The third barrier is the lack of leadership as demonstrated by DHS Secretaries Brown and Chertoff. The fourth and final barrier is what he calls the strange psychology of preparedness. For example, one in three Americans believes a terrorist attack will happen within a year; however, fewer than half Americans have a family emergency preparedness plan. The thinking follows the line of there will be an attack, but it wont happen me.

We are introduced to Prochaska's "Stages of Change " model to help us better understand how people normally modify their behaviors.
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38 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Steve Dietrich VINE VOICE on November 12, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Certainly the author is an expert in the field but I thought that the book had three shortcomings. The author, as he admits in the preface, rushed the book out the door, relying on others to do much of the work. Political diatribe displaced accurate facts and sound reasoning in several parts. Finally, the author stumbled at the end, which was perhaps the most important part. Despite these flaws it is an important book which should be read, but with some reservations.

It's a fast read for a variety of reasons. I purchased it just prior to a 2-hour flight and was finished before they collected the coffee cups.

What the author does contribute is a variety of scenarios and the consequences.

Redlener's political orientation is left of Hillary and friends and it shows. My guess is that some of his Columbia associates also sprinkled their venom into the text. Some of the many examples where his bias influences the analysis include flu vaccines and New Orleans.

The author concludes that some profit driven scheme is resulted in the flight of vaccine producers from the US to foreign shores and the concentration of the world's production of flu vaccines into two plants. If there is a scheme it is simply one of survival. Flu vaccine production is a low margin product, rushed to production each year just ahead of the flu season to serve an uncertain demand. If the demand is there (and the author is correct that the public does not take responsibility for basic stuff) they make a little money. However, if there is an allegation of a problem, years after the vaccine was produced, the maker is going to get sued. US courts are the preferred venue where the rules of evidence are lax, joint and several liability is common and the juries are generous.
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Format: Hardcover
The coming Armageddon is quite realistically covered by author Irwin Redlener, the Director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, in a variety of forms in his foreboding tome. In meticulous, sometimes bitingly dramatic detail, he paints five fatalistic scenarios - an avian flu outbreak in New York City; a major earthquake in Seattle; a nuclear attack; a train wreck that causes the release of toxic chemicals; and a terrorist attack that targets elementary schools in Arizona. Within each scenario, we see a chaotic morass of bureaucracy, and Redlener points out real-life examples of such deficient actions that make the aftermath he describes of such disasters feel palpable.

For instance, in mentioning an actual attack on a school in Beslan, Russia, the author brings to light the possibility that terrorists could go after soft targets, specially women and children, since such sacrifices are more typical in Muslim. He also discusses the threat of nuclear detonations. Just as North Korea proved today, terrorists could use newer technology to assemble small nuclear weapons covertly. Moreover, there are liquid explosives and other such low-tech threats that can be used in even more clandestine ways. The variety found in the possible onslaughts is daunting, especially to the reader, and sadly, no one, from Redlener's informed perspective, seems prepared to handle these disasters optimally. Starting with FEMA's lethargic response to Katrina, there is a wellspring of stories about how Homeland Security has mishandled both money and expertise.

In the most prescriptive section of the book, the author describes a nine-point strategy which amounts to validating good common sense and a more disciplined approach to organization by the government.
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