Tuesday, January 04, 2005


   “Tales of brave Ulysses, and the sirens sweetly singing.”
Those beautiful weird sisters' songs would lure sailors to their doom on a rocky coast. In World War I, air raid sirens would announce the arrival of the Zeppelins, with a cargo of death and destruction. Fire and Police sirens sound a similar warning, death is imminent, the grim reaper is nigh. Anyone in tornado country knows what a siren means on a hot summer evening. My father’s last ride had the soundtrack of a wailing Ambulance siren.

A siren is a deal with fate. We accept its presence, and we can buy ourselves a little space, a little time, a little breathing room from its inevitability. We give ourselves a chance. Some people have suggested that an expanded tsunami warning system could have saved lives in the Indian Ocean. Some areas might have been spared - others, such as the obliterated villages in Sumatra where only the mosques were left standing - were probably too close for any warning to have helped. Still, we have tools, we have science, we have motivation. Faith is worthless against an Act of Nature - but we are not helpless.

By Professor Batty


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonderful writing! These sounds of doom and gloom have always captured my attention in movies as well as real life. My personal "favorites": The Carter, a two-tone siren built and used in the UK during WWII, which is now readily associated with the immanent destruction of an air strike; and the Federal Thunderbolt, a home-grown classic which to this day will strike fear into the hearts of even the most fearless:


As I helplessly observed the horrific destruction take place before my eyes in the Indian Ocean, I, too, wondered if such efficient warning systems would have helped...


Blogger Doug Carlson said...

My blog explores the premise that the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center didn't have usable crisis communications protocols in place when the earthquake hit that would have enabled it to issue a usable tsunami warning via the AP, CNN, BBC, etc. Nothing written anywhere in the past four weeks suggests they tried to issue such a warning through the mass media -- even though the Center's scientists suspected a tsunami had been generated an hour before the waves hit Sri Lanka and India (according to NOAA's own timeline). Instead of calling the media, they picked up their phones and called friends and colleagues in the Indian Ocean region. A UPI story in the Washington Times and elsewhere on January 7 quoted a NOAA spokeswoman as saying the Center doesn't even maintaiin a list of media contacts. Scientists are caught up in high-tech thinking, which may be understandable, but you have to wonder whether NOAA's communications professionals have devised low-tech warning plans using time-tested radio, the Associated Press, CNN and other media outlets.

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