Sunday, July 7, 2013

Take Cover

East Pleasant Street, UMass water tower 3:00ish

After the storm 8:30ish


Anonymous said...

Good eye!

Dr. Ed said...

If that's what I think that is, perhaps it is time for someone other than just me to be asking this question: Assuming that the powers-that-be knew that a tornado was closing on North Village and Puffton, and assuming that they had the ability to warn people to"take cover", exactly where could the residents of the 240 units in NVA and the 465 units of Puffton go?

North Village is modular housing (i.e. "mobile homes") and I believe that Puffton is too -- and they really don't do well in tornadoes.

And this isn't an unrealistic fear. Unlike elsewhere where it is flat, thunderstorms follow predictable paths -- and North Village (and Puffton) are in one of the paths that thunderstorms follow. NVA has been hit by lighting on multiple occasions.

Tornadoes originate from thunderstorms, and thus would be originating from a thunderstorm following the path they do. It will spin off like a Dreidel, going anywhere, but it will start and be most destructive in the thunderstorm corridor.

So UMPD, APD, AFD, Enku -- I have a question: say you give an accurate and timely warning to "take cover" and everything works right and you get the warning out -- where are they supposed to go????

Larry Kelley said...

At the height of the storm just after my iPhone went crazy with a tornado warning I heard Hadley Dispatch say to units in the field that UMass was about to set off their fancy new alarm system, but it never did go off.

Anonymous said...

The emergency alarm did get activated, actually.

Larry Kelley said...

The sound system or just email/texts?

Because I did not hear it, and I was pretty close to UMass at the time.

Anonymous said...

Stephanie O'Keefe heard the UMASS alarm. She said so on her FB page.

Larry Kelley said...

Yes, Nancy Buffone just confirmed it was used to clear the playing fields as a lacrosse tournament was in progress.

I was storm chasing over on East Pleasant and/or North Pleasant Street so maybe the acoustics there are not all that good.

At my house in South Amherst (half way between town center and Hampshire College) I can hear them loud and clear.

Anonymous said...

I heard the first clap of thunder, the sirens/announcement at UMass and my neighbors rushing to get their laundry in from the line.

I live on East Pleasant Street/ (near Van Meter/ Harlow neighborhood)

Walter Graff said...

Where does anyone go. Unfortunately this area suffers from few tornadoes so shelters are not in the picture. And even in communities in tornado alley, you simply stay in your home as many don't have shelter and hope for the best. There are few mass shelters available if any. The most someone usually gets in tornado alley is 15 minute warning. Lately a few have even had 30 minute warnings. 4-15 minutes to make a decision. Best you can do with enough time is get in your car and flee if you've heard the warning and potential tornado spot. Kind of sucks but that is life.

Strange Larry took that picture over that spot. Up until a few years ago UMASS had a tornado warning device there, part of a funded program for testing. I think the tower and radar are gone now but can't recall as I avoid that road for the most spot.

Larry Kelley said...

The thing was demonic. It was probably taunting UMass.

Dr. ed said...

Best you can do with enough time is get in your car and flee if you've heard the warning and potential tornado spot

This is EXACTLY what I am afraid is going to happen. Remember that the vast majority of the fatalities at the Coconut Grove nightclub fire weren't fire-related. They were crushed to death in the mob panic as everyone desperately attempted to get through the rotary exit door (and why all public buildings are now required to have at least emergency exits opening outward with crash bars on them).

If you have scared people attempting to escape, they aren't going to be worrying about the motor vehicle laws let alone the wellbeing of anyone else. Forget merely driving on lawns & sidewalks, you will have people ramming other vehicles and everything else.

I've personally been saying that this entire emergency alert system was not only a waste of money but little more than the breeding of paranoia. OK, if you are going to have a system and you are going to give warnings, you damn well better have a plan of what your emergency instructions are going to be.

Otherwise, it is going to be worse than nothing at all.

Otherwise one of two things will happen -- people will ignore it completely, or people will panic.

I remember last time one summer when the warning was just "take cover" with no explanation -- not even if it was weather related or something else.

I remember another time when they had decided to test the sirens without telling anyone -- not even the UM News Office who candidly told me that they "had no idea" why the EAS was sounding. That, boys & girls, is not good -- that's the sort of thing that leads to panic...

Anyone remember what happened with that radio broadcast of "War of the Worlds" and the panic that alone caused? Now what if you absolutely knew it was "official"?

Now what if it isn't people calling each other on the telephone but sending instant text messages and tweets?

People are going to die because of this stupidity. I say again, if you are going to HAVE a warning system, you damn well better figure out NOW what your warning for various things should be.

Larry Kelley said...

I heard back from Patrick Archbald this morning with a more detailed accounting:

"In response to your question, prior to this long weekend there was a meeting with UMPD, UMass Athletics staff and Emergency Management staff about the various outdoor events and the communications plan for emergencies. It was shared among the group that UMass was hosting two large lacrosse events and the Amherst fireworks and very few faculty, students or staff would be on campus.

UMass Athletics follows NCAA rules governing inclement weather and outdoor events regardless of whether they are NCAA-sanctioned games or not. The national standard is that any lighting within 8 miles of the site of the game is reason to clear the field. At approximately 1420 hours a lighting strike was recorded at 7.8 miles from campus so the Athletics Dept. requested we sound the outdoor warning siren for a “seek shelter” notice and we did that immediately. Both the Hadley and Amherst Dispatch Centers were notified of the alarm.

Officers working the detail reported everyone was complying with the notice and were headed to their vehicles or to other shelter. At approximately 1515hrs with the weather getting worse with tornado warnings the lacrosse events were cancelled by Athletics and this too was broadcast over the outdoor system immediately. Officers at the event reported that everyone was leaving the area.

We did not send out any email or text because this message was intended for our visitors -- not faculty, students or staff off campus. Each case is different and will determine what notification tools are used and in what order they are deployed."

Anonymous said...

I am assuming the deputy chief meant "lightning" not "lighting".

Larry Kelley said...

Yes, he did. (I do that all the time.)

Dr. Ed said...

The national standard is that any lighting within 8 miles of the site of the game is reason to clear the field. At approximately 1420 hours a lighting strike was recorded at 7.8 miles from campus so the Athletics Dept. requested we sound the outdoor warning siren for a “seek shelter”

There is a hell of a lot of difference between "clear the field" and "seek shelter" -- particularly when one thinks in terms of "shelter in place" and barricading against the feared "active shooter."

Does UMass want to deny that their training includes a picture of someone smashing a plant pot onto someone's head?

Let me be candid here: If I heard "Weather Emergency, Clear the Field", I'd open the door and shout something like "get in here ,you freaking moron, before you get hit by lighting.

On the other hand, if I hear just "seek shelter" and someone whom I don't know is seeking access to my shelter, I may well presume that he/she/it is a threat to me and mine, and I may respond with lethal force. And were this person an active shooter, I'd be well within my rights to do so.

This is not pound-on-the-chest machismo -- women nurture, men protect. And we need to clarify the difference between going indoors because the weather is bad and hiding from an active shooter....

I say again, if you are going to have this fancy system, you ought to think a whole lot more about how it is to be used

Dr. Ed said...

Let me clarify: UMass is doing "active shooter drills" where they teach (terrify) faculty and staff that anyone who isn't a uniformed police officer should be presumed to be the evil "active shooter" intent on murdering them -- that they should barricade themselves into closets and such, and attack anyone who comes in after them.

That is what they have led people to believe that "seek shelter" means. Dangerous criminal on the loose, lock him out of where you and yours are, attack him should he come in after you.

Then they use the same words for a completely different situation, where the threat is the weather and not a human of ill intent.

And they fail to understand that it kinda would be helpful to distinguish between the two. In the former case, one has a right (and moral duty) of self defense against the perp, in the latter, one has a moral (if not legal) duty to help shelter one's fellow man.