The National Weather Service (NWS) has decided to test out more blunt tornado warning messages in Kansas, Missouri, and Illinois in an effort to reduce fatality and injury rates.
Here are a few of them:
“You could be killed if not underground or in a tornado shelter.”
“This is a life-threatening situation.”
“Complete destruction of entire neighborhoods likely.”
The NWS has partnered with social scientists to determine which warning would be the most effective.
Do you think that a little added fear will result in better outcomes?
An earlier study titled “Hazard Warning Systems: Review of 20 Years of Progress,” By John H. Sorenson discussed the foundations of an effective hazard warning message:
“Five speciﬁc topics that are important to include in assembling the actual content of a public warning message are the nature, location, guidance, time, and source of the hazard or risk. The style aspects that are important to include are message speciﬁcity, consistency, accuracy, certainty, and clarity.”
But accurate reports of what is going on in the moment can lead people to believe that they are safer than they are because tornados can gain power and shift quickly.
According to Mike Hudson, a meteorologist in the weather service’s Kansas City office, “People do personalize weather very close to their home. A storm can occur five miles away, but to them it is a non-event.”
Many people have become desensitized to standard tornado warnings and even ignore them. Such ignorance may have led to hundreds of deaths last year.
The following YouTube video illustrates people’s sense of false security.