This week, we're honoring the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, an important lesson that humanity recieved that even our most "modern" technological advances are no match for nature. No ship is unsinkable, and no technology is infallible.
Also over the weekend, the National Weather Service had an opportunity to test it's new warning system, which it believes may have saved lives, which is a good thing.
I live in Oklahoma, which is part of what is known as "tornado alley." People here have been dealing with this phenomenon for as long as there have been people here. My grandparents headed for the cellar (which did dual duty as a storm shelter and a place to store jars of fruit and vegetable preserves) as soon as the sky clouded up. This happened a lot, and they kept the place stocked for overnight stays. Because we're so close to the water line here, and technology has given us monster-sized refrigerators and freezers, most people have traded in their in-ground cellars for a "safe room" in their house. A safe room can be a room that is built specifically for storm protection (basically the equivalent of the black box on airplanes) - these are expensive. Most of us have opted to simply find "safer" rooms, which are rooms in our homes which don't have windows - as close the interior of the house as possible.
Knowing exactly when to get into that safe (or safer) room is the tricky part, of course. For a lot of us, the safer room is our bathroom, and you can really only spend so many hours in there without losing your mind. And, of course, it's tempting to want to go outside and watch or photo the spectacular funnel clouds. The most dangerous time is late at night, when people are sleeping.
For this, many of us have gone from depending on radios, to TVs and now our mobile devices. There are also sirens in many neighborhoods, which have been successful in waking people up to alert them to move to a safe or safer room. Unfortunately, in Woodward, OK, last night, those sirens failed due to a lightening strike and then the sirens were hit with a tornado. Tragically, there were injuries and fatalities in those tornados, and the siren failure is believed to have contributed to the toll.
In my neighborhood, I'm usually not able to hear the sirens, so I don't rely on them. I've come to rely on my mobile phone. The tornados did not hit in my city last night, but if they had, I might have been in trouble. I forgot that I had turned the notification signal down a couple of days before while I was in a meeting. When I received the tornado alert in the early hours of the morning on my cell phone, it didn't make a loud enough sound to wake me up, and I slept right through it.
No matter how great our technology is, we need to always remember to have a life boat - or a back-up. It's an important lesson to learn and never forget.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the tornados - those who have lost family, and those whose homes have been destroyed.
Also see: How to Track Severe Weather from your Safe Room, and Can Twitter Save Lives?