Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The sky is falling. Sirens are blaring. Ignore it.

That’s what I do.

I’m located at the intersection of three large counties in an area of the country that has moderately frequent severe weather & tornadoes. All three counties fire up the sirens any time they think there is severe weather any place in the county. I hear the emergency severe weather sirens of all three counties, and I can’t tell which siren is from what county.

Each time I hear a siren (as often as one a week in summer) I can either:
  1. head immediately for shelter (basement) as officially recommended
  2. wake up a computer and research the current weather and radar
  3. ignore them
Unfortunately many of the residents of Joplin, MO appear to have chosen options 2 or 3, some of whom died as a result of their choice.
In interviews with nearly 100 survivors of the tornado, NOAA officials found that the perceived frequency of warning sirens that night and in previous storms caused people to become "desensitized or complacent to sirens" and to not take shelter.
"Instead, the majority of Joplin residents did not take protective action until processing additional credible confirmation of the threat,"
In other words the emergency sirens are not credible unless combined with other information sources. I don’t doubt that for a second. I do not consider the county emergency sirens to be credible unless I verify them with some other source (radar weather, for example). There simply are too many false alerts.

In IT security, do we spam our users/customers with so may warnings that we are no longer a credible source?

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