Really scary alerts do happen

In response to the scary alert that was erroneously posted in Hawaii, I am reposting this post from 2012. I am in no way implying these events are equivalent or that the event in Hawaii had the potential to generate more negative consequences.

——-Weeks go by when there is nothing interesting to blog about and then there is a day like today.

I was headed across campus at 1 to have lunch with my wife. The emergency alert system suddenly activates:

Evacuate Grand Forks, Evacuate Grand Forks, you will be given further instructions.

Strange I thought. I have actually evacuated once, but that happened in the middle of the night because of a flood. What could this be? We seem an unlikely target for some kind of military action. Not exactly a high value target.

Two possibilities seemed most likely; 1) students from a rival institution had hacked the system possibly related to the potato bowl this weekend (yes, we have a potato bowl), 2) an ammonia tanker in the rail yard had ruptured.

It occurred to me that we were playing a team from the west coast with which we have little history so hacking the system reserved for emergencies seemed something you would save for a rival. The ammonia thing seemed a possibility so I searched for the instructions that were promised. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

I decided to have lunch.

The explanation came 40 minutes later.

The emergency message asking people to evacuate Grand Forks should was intended to be a siren tone test only. A siren-only test is sounded the first Wednesday of each month at 1 p.m.  The Emergency Management Office apologizes for any inconvenience.

You can tell the person writing this announcement was excited. Now, aside from thinking too many people had to be consulted before someone bothered to explain, I am fascinated by this image I now have of the preprogrammed emergency box.

What do you think?

Button one – this is a test

Button two – evacuate Grand Forks

Button three – head for the basement

Button four – head for higher ground

Do you think that in an emergency someone might issue a confusing message or not know what to say? Hence, all emergency messages had to be carefully worded and preprogrammed.

I now think they need a button with the message “Whoops – my bad. Never mind!”



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