Growing up, when I stood on the roof of my Dad’s house and looked to the west, I would see the cooling tower of one of three nuclear power plants long before my eyes reached the horizon. Since it was the mid 1980s, entertainment television included TV movies like “Special Bulletin” and “The Day After”. Seeing what would happen when bad nuclear things occurred, folks in the community would tend to get tense when hearing the annoying two-tone signal of what was then known as the “Emergency Broadcast System”. Not to worry, it was always a test.
The newer “Emergency Alert System” doesn’t sound as dire with its “duck fart” noises but the sense of urgency remains, especially when everyone mobile device within earshot starts sounding an alarm simultaneously. It’s unnerving.
The State of Illinois fired of the Emergency Alert System today to let people know they need medical people to register at IllinoisHelps.net to assist with the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of my “training” of the urgency related to the use of EAS, I was rather unnerved by all of my iDevices screeching and vibrating at once to convey this announcement to Illinoisans. I wretched about it on Twitter; looking back I probably wretched too much, but I maintain that if EAS is fired off too often, people are going to start to ignore it. And then, universe forbid, we have a tornado, nuke, or asteroid bearing down on the city, people will ignore the EAS instead of taking precautionary measures, because they’ve been training to respond to it like an intercom system.
I fully understand what the Illinois officials are trying to do, and that’s raise awareness of the need for trained medical personnel. So I will restate this, if you are able to help, please register at IllinoisHelps.net.
Apparently the EAS notifications unnerved a few folks. After I wretched about it on Twitter I went for a walk around the block. A woman walking on the other side of the street was sobbing loudly into her phone, telling someone that the only place she feels safe is the cemetery and that’s because her parents are dead and they’re the only ones that know what’s going on. Another man was yelling into his phone about being newly unemployed. I turned the corner and another woman was yelling at someone on the porch about the “emergency tones”.
With today’s news that we are to remain “shelter-in-place” for the next 30 days, I understand it is a necessity but I am frustrated. I’m trying to smile and I’m going to make an effort wretch less on Twitter, but I’m really not enjoying this whole shelter-in-place thing, mostly because it’s not being consistently implemented across the country and I fear the non-sheltering states are just going to let their folks carry the virus all over the place while the rest of us sit at home. Of course, there’s no consistency coming out of D.C.; one minute the Orange One is screaming at a reporter for being mean, the next minute he’s adding tens of billions to the population of South Korea. Trump is throwing out sound bites as fact and showing obvious partiality to the states that matter to him politically.
We do not need more chaos in this situation.
I wanted to give a reassuring smile or gesture of some sort to the woman who spends her days in the cemetery but I can’t do that from two meters away. I realize now that complaining on Twitter isn’t going to solve anything either, so I hope to not do that again.
We are going to get through this and I’m hopeful we’ll all be fine when this crisis has run its course.
In the meanwhile, maintain your distance and smile, and try not to be alarmist. I’m going to do my best to do the same.