Yesterday was certainly interesting for the Dallas Broadvox office. We had our first visit by our new CEO, Bruce Chatterley, and the first evacuation of the office. In case you missed the news, the north Texas was hit by powerful thunderstorms yesterday which spawned several tornadoes. A few of these were on target to strike central Dallas and, ultimately, we were told to leave our offices and seek shelter in the subterranean parking garage. Of course, by the time I confirmed everyone had left the suite, my time in the garage amounted to only a couple of minutes before the “tornado warning” was cancelled. However, other parts of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex were not as fortunate. Millions of property damage occurred but there was no loss of life.
The National Weather Service (NWS) is considering changing the terminology and descriptions used to describe weather conditions. So, instead of “tornado watch” and “tornado warning”, the new alerts will include words such as “mass devastation”, “unsurvivable” and “catastrophic”. Potential alerts may also be worded as "THIS IS AN EXTREMELY DANGEROUS TORNADO WITH COMPLETE DEVASTATION LIKELY. … SEEK SHELTER NOW! … MOBILE HOMES AND OUTBUILDINGS WILL OFFER NO SHELTER FROM THIS TORNADO — ABANDON THEM IMMEDIATELY."
For me, the changes look backward and ignore the new reality. Yesterday, people in the office were tracking the storms on their computers and when the building’s warning system was activated, we knew there was potential danger in the area. Once in the garage, I saw many people continue to follow the storms using their smartphones. The NWS might consider how to leverage IP communications and the availability of this new technology rather than attempting to create “an abandon all hope” type of scenario.
Last week Nielsen reported that 50% of all mobile phones in the US were smartphones and according to CTIA, there are more wireless subscribers than people in the US. In fact, wireless penetration as measured against the entire US and territorial population (Puerto Rico, Guam and the US Virgin Islands) was 102.4% in June of last year. Therefore, more than half of wireless subscribers have a smartphone and can both receive and follow important weather alerts.
Perhaps, the NWS should push instead tornado watch smartphone applications and launch an “App for That” campaign to protect your family and property from tornadoes. There is one on iTunes for $9.99 but given our tax dollars support the NWS, I believe they could provide one at no cost.
Perhaps, we can encourage them into providing a weather alert app before they decide to terrify us.