First-ever Nation-wide Emergency Broadcasting Alert Raises Some Risk Management Questions09 November 2011
After radio and television interruptions for Emergency Alert System broadcasts over the years, it might come as a surprise to Americans that apparently there has never been a simultaneous national test of the system. Today, at 2 pm Eastern time, the first-ever such national emergency test will be carried out.
The government publicity machine has cranked up to maximum capacity to make sure that citizens are warned that the test — THIS IS ONLY A TEST — will be going on today in the hopes of averting any panic over a perceived real emergency.
From a risk manager’s perspective, this actually is a little discomforting. While hospitals and community emergency agencies have worked on disaster and emergency plans under government direction, I for one always assumed that the public would be alerted by the Emergency Broadcasting System. It’s not clear that before today there was really the capability of delivering on that expectation — and until it is tested today, we still will not know whether our government has a viable means (other than CNN and Fox News) of alerting the country.
I will agree that with all of the tensions in the world, it makes sense to make the public aware of the test before it was triggered. I also agree that with the asteroid fly-by going on, today is probably better than yesterday for the test.
The timing probably does raise the question — after all of these years, why now? Is it war jitters over Iran’s nukes? Maybe it is a response to stories moving across the world on a possible Iraeli attack on Iran, Iran bio-terriorism threats, economic melt-down in Europe, and of course we are approaching 2012 and the Mayan end of the world. Of course folks may also be worried that the spate of alien invasion shows, movies, and video games is a harbinger of reality.
A little more troubling is this test following a purchase by FEMA of more than 412,000,000 emergency meal rations earlier this year. The spate of natural disasters around the world also seems to have increased concerns amoung the public, but the surge of FEMA “Be Prepared” public service announcements is vaguely reminiscent of the “Duck and Cover” civilian defense annoucements in the schools in the 1950′s.
I don’t know the answer, but I sure hope that it is just that someone in the government finally got around to doing the preparation that they have always required for hospitals and local governments.
No Disaster Last Night — Asteroid Leaves Safe Distance In Fly-By09 November 2011
Unlike Hollywood film predictions, last night’s 200,000-mile encounter with an “aircraft carrier” sized asteroid occurred without disaster. The incident, however, does emphasize that statistically and historically, we are vulnerable to an occassional large space rock that passes close to Earth. This object’s trajectory took it within the orbit of the Moon.
This particular piece of inter-planetary debris was observed more than 5 years ago and has been tracked carefully to anticipate any threat to Earth. The real interest in the asteroid, hoever, seems to be that it is the type of asteroid that may contain water and could be a future resource in exploration trip to Mars later this century.
Had the asteroid been on a collision course, however, the consequences could have been a major disaster with massive loss of life but stopping short of being a “planet killer”. The impact would carve a crater four miles across and 1,700 feet deep. And if it slammed into the ocean, it would trigger 70-foot-high tsunami waves, according to Purdue University professor Jay Melosh.