Saving lives or crying "wolf?"
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We were enjoying lunch downtown on Saturday when I happened to glance at my cell phone. There was a tweet from the city Emergency Management Department regarding a tornado warning for the area. Five minutes later, the sirens went off. And stopped. And started. And stopped. Finally, they wailed for maybe fifteen seconds and stopped.
The party at a nearby table laughed, and one of them mentioned that next we'd hear the voice. Well, we didn't hear the voice. I'm not sure what happened. When the sirens started I grabbed the phone and found a radar feed. The nearest severe storms were way to the north and west, moving northeast.
The city says the sirens are in place to warn people outdoors. So what happens when people move to shelter, turn on the TV or fire up the browser on their smartphones and discover that the storm has either already passed or won't move through their location? The thing with Saturday's storm was that the warnings were valid for the far west part of town. It's pretty clear that people here think the sirens have become a joke.
It's time for the city to consider a zoned siren system. They shouldn't be activated unless there's danger in a particular part of town. I'm sure there's the argument that people outdoors need the time to find shelter, but isn't there a balance? Isn't there a real danger that people will become desensitized to the sirens? Erring on the side of caution is one thing, but do it too often and people will stop paying attention. What happens then?
Well, well. The city answered via Facebook. props to them.
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