So, elsewhere on Gawker Media, there's a blog I've loved called The Vane. Recently, there was an article about tornado sirens and how they should be eliminated.
I love the blog, but I find I cannot agree with this one. At all. In fact, I find the whole thing really privileged in terms of understanding where people are with technology, where they are financially, and what is considered a "waste of money" and what is not.
Mr. Mersereau suggests that, even as he admits they have saved lives in the past, we should eliminate weather sirens and simply have radios for everyone. He also claims the sirens are not audible from inside a house and that most people are now inside all the time anyway. When a lot of people disagree with this point, he uses the word "heehawing" to describe those people, insinuating that they must be know-nothing hicks? I mean, that's my takeaway. If I'm misinterpreting, I'm misinterpreting, but that's what it sounds like to me. So, an unattractive little ad hominem there ...
Here's the thing ... a lot of real life details are being overlooked. Those "heehawing" people actually have smart comments about this. First, you CAN hear the sirens from inside your house. I have experienced this point in real life. A siren woke me up once, in the early morning hours. I grabbed the baby and hid in the closet. (No basement, alas.) The tornado struck right down the street, and thank god, skipped my house. But, the siren woke me up. Those things are loud.
Secondly, people do work outside in many of these areas he's discussing. Farmers work outside, put their phones in their pockets, and don't hear them. Or, the phones don't have a signal where they are. That's still really common in rural areas. So, useless. Where my parents live, even the NOAA weather radio doesn't get a signal. It's that far out in the country.
The third point is that not everyone has a smart phone. Or has the money for a radio. He refutes the point about money by insisting everyone could get one for free from the government, but I'm confused as to how that would be more effective than simply using the already existing and completely audible from indoors siren. But, what's worse about this is how he forgets that there are homeless people, who will not have any of these tools.
Fourth, one of the other posters discusses redundancy as important. YES! This is it. It is good for potentially life-threatening situations to have redundancy. Mr. Mersereau says himself that the sirens have saved lives. Are those saved lives suddenly unimportant? Why would we not retain an analog version of the more recent digital, in order to save as many lives as possible? It doesn't make any sense.
In short, I think we should keep our tornado sirens. In fact, I suggest we update them and keep them as active as possible. Every bit helps, and not to put too fine a point on it, tornadoes suck (pardon the awful pun) and can totally kill you. Protecting the elderly, the poor, and the homeless is just as important as protecting the privileged.