As I look out my window today, the first thing I see is the sun glinting off the snow and frost covered trees. Yes; I’ve awakened to another frozen morning, but as I check the weather channel to see if it will warm up, I’m faced with an announcement that dredges to the surface the fear that have been of my life for more than fifty-five years.
I grew up in Sixties when the Emergency Measures Organization was at its peak. There were EMO sirens distributed all through the city. We were warned about getting to high ground, and the dangers we faced if the dam were bombed. Can you believe we actually had the city divided into “who will die immediately,” “who will die within ten minutes of the event”, and “who will survive” zones?
Our school was in the within ten minutes zone. How’s that for a great way to instill fear in the hearts of children? We had drills where the sirens went off and we were all supposed to hide. In school, when the siren went off, we left the classroom and went into the hall, sitting quietly on the floor waiting for the all clear. Were we scared? Damn right. So scared in fact that it never occurred to any of us to complain. They never told us it was a drill. Without windows and the lights down as low as they would go, the halls were dark, and we were all under fourteen years old. It was especially frightening in 1961 when John F. Kennedy squared off and wouldn’t back down in The Bay of Pigs incident. Those sirens went off regularly, without warning. I’d walk home looking up at the sky for the bombs that would drop on us at any time. At the time, we were all convinced it was only a matter of time before the Soviets dropped a bomb on us, so the derailment had to be their fault, right? Fear filled us all, and at eleven years of age, my fertile imagination supplied all kinds of monstrosities to my dreams.
The sirens were geared as well, to sound in the event of natural disasters, weather warnings, and serious accidents where the public would be endangered, etc. I remember it sounding one night when there was a train derailment less than a mile from my home, and one of the cars carried chlorine gas. It must’ve been after midnight, but my parents got up and turned on the radio to listen to instructions. We came within an hour of being forced to evacuate our home. Was I afraid? Damn right! I was terrified. Had the dreaded Soviets caused the derailment? Was this the end?
Gradually, when nothing happened, EMO and its sirens disappeared. Why have I resurrected this? Because in Canada, they’ve launched a new warning system. And if the government thinks the dangers we face are serious enough for this, then they’ve dredged up my fear again.
Today’s post is brought to you by the letter F for Fear: This is taken directly from The Weather Channel’s post this morning:
This system delivers immediate warnings when there’s imminent danger from extreme weather, natural disasters, biohazards, terrorist threats and other life-threatening events.
The new system, called Alert Ready, allows government agencies across Canada to issue public-safety messages to audiences on television and radio easier and quicker than before.
Visit AlertReady.ca for information on the types of alerts Canadians receive, examples of alert notifications, and helpful links to emergency-preparedness resources.
“The launch of the Alert Ready public awareness campaign is a welcome step to inform Canadians about public alerting,” said Steven Blaney, Canada’s minister of public safety and emergency preparedness. “Building awareness empowers citizens to prepare for and help to mitigate the impacts of emergencies.”
Alert Ready was developed in partnership with federal, provincial and territorial emergency management officials, Environment Canada and the broadcast industry. The distribution infrastructure is operated by Pelmorex Media Inc., the parent company of The Weather Network and MétéoMédia. All government-authorized broadcasters must carry Alert Ready warning, as of March 31, 2015.
“Alert Ready benefits all Canadians by giving everyone immediate exposure to important, life-saving information, allowing them to take action and protect themselves, their families and property,” said Paul Temple, senior vice-president of regulatory and strategic affairs for Pelmorex Media Inc. “Canada’s broadcast industry has worked together with the federal, provincial and territorial governments to ensure alerts about potentially life-threatening events are quickly delivered to affected communities,” he said. Alerts “will also include instructions as to what the public should be doing.”
Those messages are distributed across Canada by cable and satellite companies, radio stations, over-the-air television stations and video-on-demand services. Online you can check to see if there are current alerts in your area by visiting the alerts page on theweathernetwork.com. In addition, you can also receive alerts to your mobile phone ($3.00/month, per province) by visiting this link to sign up.
So that’s it. Without using the acronym, EMO, they’ve resurrected the system in place in the Sixties, and added a few new categories. What exactly is a biological threat? Hazardous Materials is a new way to describe that Chlorine leak from 1963, and instead of a threat of Atomic attack from the Soviets, we have a Terrorist Hazard warning. Am I afraid? Damn straight. In this time of uncertain weather patters, that part of the system makes sense, but the rest? Oh well, at least I know that my home is located in the “will survive” zone.
Now, pick a few bloggers from the list and see how they’ve handled the letter F.