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Source: (consider it) Thread: Wrong again Winston.
Twilight

Puddleglum's sister
# 2832

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There are worse things to fear than fear itself, burning to death is just one of them.
In this summer of superlatives, we now have the worst death toll in the long history of horrible California fires. In one area people died inside their trailer homes because the authorities didn't want to sound the alarm and "cause a panic."

From the NY Times:
quote:
The more aggressive “Amber alert” system, with text messages and screeching alarms, can reach nearly every mobile phone in a region, but it was not activated on the night the fires broke out. Officials have said that they were concerned about setting off a panic and jamming roads.
I've heard this excuse from authority figures all my life. At what point does it become lawful for them to take this paternalistic attitude with people at the risk of their lives?

[I've been down on Churchill since I read "Dead Wake," and found out he let the Lusitania go down on purpose, failing to provide the promised military escort, so that America would be motivated to join the war effort.]

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rolyn
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# 16840

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Maybe if we had rolled to the militaristic ambition of the Central Powers then the course of Capitalism subsequent climate change would have been different. TBH I very much doubt that.

As it was with the sinking of the Titanic and Grenfell Tower, probably best to ignore the 'experts' if you want to save your butt.

[ 14. October 2017, 11:09: Message edited by: rolyn ]

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Change is the only certainty of existence

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mr cheesy
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I don't really go for the whole "bombfire of the experts" vibe, but it is fair to say that when they're wrong, they are really wrong.

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arse

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Alan Cresswell

Mad Scientist 先生
# 31

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On this instance, the authorities clearly got it wrong in forecasting the progress of the fire. I've had a fair bit of professional experience of emergency planning in relation to nuclear accidents, and decisions about evacuation are always a balance of risks - evacuations are almost always somewhat chaotic, and self-evacuation (individuals deciding to leave in the absence of emergency response instructions to do so, or against advice to stay) even more so. In such chaotic situations you can guarantee some injury (stress related heart attacks, vehicle accidents etc), which you balance against potential injury if people stay put.

In a very complex situation like a wildfire, where even the emergency response management is unable to accurately predict what is going to happen in the next few hours, the risks of evacuation are even greater. Those same authorities who misjudged the speed and direction of the fire spread, and as a result issued the wrong advice that people should shelter, would have been equally vilified if they had instructed people to leave only for them to be burnt in their cars (as happened recently in Portugal) - especially if their homes remained undamaged.

Severe emergency management is an almost impossible job - people who are stressed, acting on their experience and expertise with inadequate, often contradictory, information, almost always reacting to events without the time to think ahead and be proactive. Quite often they're not only concerned with local residents, but are also sending first responders into dangerous locations without any idea of exactly what they're facing - in many cases that would include people they've known and worked with for years, friends and colleagues, knowing that they may not walk out of it.

Mistakes will happen, those in charge just hope the mistakes they make won't have too serious consequences. Give those people making difficult decisions in impossible situations some credit for doing the best they can.

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Don't Brexit if you haven't a scooby how to fix it.

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Twilight

Puddleglum's sister
# 2832

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quote:
Originally posted by Alan Cresswell:


Mistakes will happen, those in charge just hope the mistakes they make won't have too serious consequences. Give those people making difficult decisions in impossible situations some credit for doing the best they can.

This didn't seem to be a case of not being able to predict the direction of the fire. They themselves said they didn't sound the alarm because they, "didn't want to cause panic."

My question is why is a traffic jam, possible heart attack or "panic," worse than baking to death inside a metal mobile home? Maybe the decisions should be made by the at-risk people themselves and not the powers-that-be who are withholding important information and assuming they know best.

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Schroedinger's cat

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# 64

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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
I don't really go for the whole "bombfire of the experts" vibe, but it is fair to say that when they're wrong, they are really wrong.

If you ignore the experts, you get Brexit, and the fucking shitpile that is. Experts are important, because they do actually know what they are talking about.

Of course, you also need decision makers who can listen to the experts, understand what they are saying, and make sensible decisions based on that.

And, in truth, the quality of decision makers these days is down the toilet, round the u-bend, and into the sewage works. If you cannot make the difficult calls, deal with the potential panic properly, then you shouldn't be in the position to make such decisions.

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mr cheesy
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# 3330

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quote:
Originally posted by Twilight:

My question is why is a traffic jam, possible heart attack or "panic," worse than baking to death inside a metal mobile home? Maybe the decisions should be made by the at-risk people themselves and not the powers-that-be who are withholding important information and assuming they know best.

Triage is tricky. I don't know about the specific situation that you're mentioning here (which may well be a complete breakdown of logic) but there are other situations whereby the "correct" action looks counter-intuitive.

For example. When faced with a serious incident with multiple casualties, paramedics are taught to triage patients first who are not the most sick. So they might well walk past someone who is near death and instead focus on someone who is much less injured.

Apologies to anyone who knows more about this than I do, I'm just trying to illustrate that the accepted export norm in a given situation might not be what we'd immediately think it ought to be.

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arse

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Alan Cresswell

Mad Scientist 先生
# 31

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So, you're assuming that the authorities knew the fire was going to engulf that neighbourhood, and they simply decided to let the people burn? Really? Are you that stupid?

Is it not more reasonable to think that they assumed that the people there were safe for the time being? If you believe that people are safe where they are then evacuation is a greater risk than staying put.

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Don't Brexit if you haven't a scooby how to fix it.

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mr cheesy
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# 3330

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quote:
Originally posted by Alan Cresswell:


Is it not more reasonable to think that they assumed that the people there were safe for the time being? If you believe that people are safe where they are then evacuation is a greater risk than staying put.

I understand this is basically what happened in Grenfall. But the expectation on the part of the fire brigade appears to have been, tragically, based on wrong/incomplete information.

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arse

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Schroedinger's cat:
If you ignore the experts, you get Brexit, and the fucking shitpile that is. Experts are important, because they do actually know what they are talking about.

Right, exactly.

But then slavish acceptance of authority and "experts" leads to all kinds of other horrors.

I'd say that it is generally better to listen to experts. The difficulty is that one doesn't know until after a disastrous event when it would have been better to ignore them.

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arse

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Alan Cresswell

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# 31

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quote:
Originally posted by Schroedinger's cat:
If you cannot make the difficult calls, deal with the potential panic properly, then you shouldn't be in the position to make such decisions.

But, dealing with a potential panic takes resources. If you want to safely evacuate a neighbourhood then you need to identify a safe place to evacuate to, a safe route to get there (and, to communicate this to people), you need people on the ground to direct traffic and some resource on hand to deal with problems (an ambulance if someone falls ill, someone to tow a broken down vehicle out of the way etc). If you have a near infinite number of first responders then maybe you just get everyone out of potential danger. But, with limited people to do everything you need to prioritise - and, having people stay put means you can use those people somewhere else which seems to be a higher priority.

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Don't Brexit if you haven't a scooby how to fix it.

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Alan Cresswell

Mad Scientist 先生
# 31

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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
quote:
Originally posted by Alan Cresswell:


Is it not more reasonable to think that they assumed that the people there were safe for the time being? If you believe that people are safe where they are then evacuation is a greater risk than staying put.

I understand this is basically what happened in Grenfall. But the expectation on the part of the fire brigade appears to have been, tragically, based on wrong/incomplete information.
You are right, when emergency responders don't have accurate and complete information then they can only make decisions based on what they have. If that information includes a building code that says a fire in one flat should be contained in that flat for half an hour (or, whatever that time should have been) then you make your decisions accordingly. By the time you find that someone had approved external cladding that permitted a fire to spread rapidly up the outside of the building it's too late.

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Don't Brexit if you haven't a scooby how to fix it.

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rolyn
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# 16840

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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
... the expectation on the part of the fire brigade appears to have been, tragically, based on wrong/incomplete information.

...and as Someone once said 'Wrong information is a damn sight worse than no information'

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Change is the only certainty of existence

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Karl: Liberal Backslider
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# 76

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quote:
Originally posted by rolyn:
quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
... the expectation on the part of the fire brigade appears to have been, tragically, based on wrong/incomplete information.

...and as Someone once said 'Wrong information is a damn sight worse than no information'
Which is why it's so damned annoying when people pressurise you, as the expert on a given technology at work, for example, for a definitive answer when there's insufficient information to give one. So they can blame you down the line by saying "but you said!"

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Might as well ask the bloody cat.

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Dark Knight

Super Zero
# 9415

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quote:
Originally posted by Twilight:


[I've been down on Churchill since I read "Dead Wake," and found out he let the Lusitania go down on purpose, failing to provide the promised military escort, so that America would be motivated to join the war effort.]

I'm Australian, and know some history, so I think Churchill was a cunt.
And agree with the rest of your post too, btw.

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Wronger than a drooling idiot on stupid juice - but I understand his argument.
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lilBuddha
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# 14333

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quote:
Originally posted by Twilight:
They themselves said they didn't sound the alarm because they, "didn't want to cause panic."

From your link with my bold
quote:
Officials have said that they were concerned about setting off a panic and jamming roads.
The problem with jammed roads in a fire is that many more people may possibly die if the fire shifts. Evacuations have to be managed and slow in order to be safe.
The real problem in most disasters are the decisions made well before the disaster. From the government to its citizens. Response during a crisis will always be criticised, and sometimes rightfully so. But the prevention and/or reduction of damage and lives lost should happen well before and rarely does suffiently.

[ 14. October 2017, 15:33: Message edited by: lilBuddha ]

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So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

- A. N. Parsley, D. Mcvinni

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cliffdweller
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# 13338

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quote:
Originally posted by Twilight:
quote:
Originally posted by Alan Cresswell:


Mistakes will happen, those in charge just hope the mistakes they make won't have too serious consequences. Give those people making difficult decisions in impossible situations some credit for doing the best they can.

This didn't seem to be a case of not being able to predict the direction of the fire. They themselves said they didn't sound the alarm because they, "didn't want to cause panic."

My question is why is a traffic jam, possible heart attack or "panic," worse than baking to death inside a metal mobile home? Maybe the decisions should be made by the at-risk people themselves and not the powers-that-be who are withholding important information and assuming they know best.

Because being baked to death in a mobile home is no worse than being baked to death in a metal automobile. At least some people (though tragically, not all) were able to be saved by taking refuge in swimming pools, an option not available if you're sitting in your car in a traffic jam. There were downed power lines, downed trees blocking evacuation routes and very, very limited visibility due to, of course, the smoke. The fire was jumping fire lines and roads making finding a clear path next to impossible.

As a Californian living in the foothills who has experienced (and been evacuated) from many, many such brush fires, they really are unpredictable-- especially during the Santa Anas, which were (and still are) at play here. A sudden shift in wind can take the fire in a new direction-- and quickly-- so that you may turn out to be evacuating people from safety directly into the belly of the beast.

Here in Calif., I'm not hearing anyone blaming the authorities who didn't call it right this time. We get how fraught and difficult these decisions are. Rather, there is simply tremendous admiration and respect for our firefighters who are battling under impossible, torturous-- and deadly-- conditions.

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Doc Tor
Deepest Red
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Military exercises also kill some of their participants. Routinely.

Perfect is the enemy of good. Sometimes someone just has to make the call, and may God have mercy on their soul.

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Forward the New Republic

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Twilight

Puddleglum's sister
# 2832

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quote:
Originally posted by cliffdweller:
At least some people (though tragically, not all) were able to be saved by taking refuge in swimming pools, an option not available if you're sitting in your car in a traffic jam. There were downed power lines, downed trees blocking evacuation routes and very, very limited visibility due to, of course, the smoke. The fire was jumping fire lines and roads making finding a clear path next to impossible.

As a Californian living in the foothills who has experienced (and been evacuated) from many, many such brush fires, they really are unpredictable-- especially during the Santa Anas, which were (and still are) at play here. A sudden shift in wind can take the fire in a new direction-- and quickly-- so that you may turn out to be evacuating people from safety directly into the belly of the beast.

Here in Calif., I'm not hearing anyone blaming the authorities who didn't call it right this time. We get how fraught and difficult these decisions are. Rather, there is simply tremendous admiration and respect for our firefighters who are battling under impossible, torturous-- and deadly-- conditions.

I admire the firemen, too. I'm not blaming anyone at all for not being able to predict the path of the fire. I've never seen a swimming pool in a trailer park. I don't think a warning siren is the same thing as an order to evacuate.

I specifically blamed only the people who knew the fire was headed for the trailer park and decided not to sound the siren.

Are we supposed to blindly admire all the decisions made by the authorities because it's "hard?"

We don't have wild fires in Ohio, thank God, but we do have tornadoes. When one is sighted we always get the warning alarms. Even if they can't predict the exact path, even though most of them dissolve, we still get the alarm sounded. Then it's our decision whether or not to take cover.

I think it's a human right to be given that information when our lives are at stake. I'm not yet ready to relinquish all that to the Alan Cresswells of the world just because they're convinced they're ten times smarter than I am.

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Alan Cresswell

Mad Scientist 先生
# 31

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quote:
Originally posted by Twilight:
I specifically blamed only the people who knew the fire was headed for the trailer park and decided not to sound the siren.

Bullshit. If they knew the fire was heading for the trailer park they would have done all in their power to safely evacuate the people there. The fact that they chose not to sound the siren is all the proof I need to know that they didn't know which way the fire was going, or even anticipate that particular direction was likely.

Because, unlike you, I consider those who try to manage such situations are human beings trying their best to save as many people as possible, and not evil men delighting in people burning to death in their homes.

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Don't Brexit if you haven't a scooby how to fix it.

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Twilight

Puddleglum's sister
# 2832

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I haven't called anyone evil. I think it's quite often more a case of well-meaning patronization from men who think they're far smarter than the people they are trying to "protect."

That's why they might think there's a pretty good chance the fire will head toward the trailer park but they don't want to sound the alarm until they're absolutely sure because the poor dumb things might panic.

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Nick Tamen

Ship's Wayfaring Fool
# 15164

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quote:
Originally posted by Twilight:
quote:
Originally posted by Alan Cresswell:


Mistakes will happen, those in charge just hope the mistakes they make won't have too serious consequences. Give those people making difficult decisions in impossible situations some credit for doing the best they can.

This didn't seem to be a case of not being able to predict the direction of the fire. They themselves said they didn't sound the alarm because they, "didn't want to cause panic."

My question is why is a traffic jam . . . worse than baking to death inside a metal mobile home?

Who said it’s worse? The issue is not avoiding traffic jams because traffic jams are bad. The issue, especially when there is some unpredictability, is that a traffic jam can, among other things, keep emergency vehicles from getting where they need to be, keep other people from being able to evacuate, and maybe even trap people trying to evacuate. It has the potential to make a bad situation worse for more people.

Ditto when large groups of people panic.

[ 14. October 2017, 17:14: Message edited by: Nick Tamen ]

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The first thing God says to Moses is, "Take off your shoes." We are on holy ground. Hard to believe, but the truest thing I know. — Anne Lamott

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Doc Tor
Deepest Red
# 9748

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quote:
Originally posted by Twilight:
That's why they might think there's a pretty good chance the fire will head toward the trailer park but they don't want to sound the alarm until they're absolutely sure because the poor dumb things might panic.

This is why they're in charge, and not you.

Because they know people will panic, and have planned for that. Doesn't matter how rich or poor they are - give a bunch of people a threat and they will make terrible decisions about how to best avoid it.

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Forward the New Republic

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lilBuddha
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# 14333

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quote:
Originally posted by Twilight:
I haven't called anyone evil. I think it's quite often more a case of well-meaning patronization from men who think they're far smarter than the people they are trying to "protect."

That's why they might think there's a pretty good chance the fire will head toward the trailer park but they don't want to sound the alarm until they're absolutely sure because the poor dumb things might panic.

Actually, the people planning for emergencies are smarter than the people trapped in an emergency situation. Not because of individual intelligence, but because of the situation. Think of yourself. If you are planning out your day, you are much more likely to do so calmly and efficiently than if all the same things need to be done but are given to you at once and you must start rightnowrightnowgodothisandthatandhurryandGoGoGoGo!
Panic changes everything and lack of preparedness makes things worse.

--------------------
So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

- A. N. Parsley, D. Mcvinni

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Alan Cresswell

Mad Scientist 先生
# 31

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quote:
Originally posted by Twilight:
I haven't called anyone evil.

You haven't? You said people deliberately didn't raise the alarm when danger threatened, considering people burning to death to be better than a potential traffic jam. Well, to me that sounds like evil.

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Don't Brexit if you haven't a scooby how to fix it.

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rolyn
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# 16840

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Safety advice is just that, it is limited. Rather like advising people to try and stand under doorframes in an earthquake. But then what? The building collapses you survive under many tons of rubble and die more slowly.

If you have a gut feeling to get the hell out of a certain situation then that is what you should do. The animals headed for higher ground before the Boxing Day tsunami hit, they knew something the people didn’t, and that was without the help of experts.

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Change is the only certainty of existence

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Alan Cresswell

Mad Scientist 先生
# 31

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quote:
Originally posted by rolyn:
If you have a gut feeling to get the hell out of a certain situation then that is what you should do.

The difficulty being knowing where to go and how to get there. A tsumani or flood is simple, head to higher ground. A tornado, get into a storm shelter. A wildfire, before you leave where you are you need to know which roads are open, and whether they're threatened by the advancing fire front. The problem in most cases is that by the time people can see the danger from their front porch it's too late - to know the danger you need to listen to and trust the experts. Knowing that experts are fallible, but still more likely to be guiding you to safety than your gut.

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Don't Brexit if you haven't a scooby how to fix it.

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Leorning Cniht
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# 17564

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quote:
Originally posted by Twilight:

My question is why is a traffic jam, possible heart attack or "panic," worse than baking to death inside a metal mobile home? Maybe the decisions should be made by the at-risk people themselves and not the powers-that-be who are withholding important information and assuming they know best.

Panic kills people. Not just heart attacks, but people getting crushed in stampeding crowds, and so on.

Of course, you are right to point out that burning buildings also kill people.

But here's a question: What, exactly, do you think the fire brigade should have done given that their belief was that remaining in the building was safe? Go door to door in the middle of the night waking people up and saying "We're the fire brigade, there's a fire in your building, we think you're safe in your flat, but it's up to you what you do"?

What do you think people would do if the fire brigade woke them up and told them that?

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Twilight

Puddleglum's sister
# 2832

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quote:
Originally posted by Leorning Cniht:


But here's a question: What, exactly, do you think the fire brigade should have done given that their belief was that remaining in the building was safe? Go door to door in the middle of the night waking people up and saying "We're the fire brigade, there's a fire in your building, we think you're safe in your flat, but it's up to you what you do"?

What do you think people would do if the fire brigade woke them up and told them that?

I'll repeat the NY times quote from my OP:
quote:
quote:
The more aggressive “Amber alert” system, with text messages and screeching alarms, can reach nearly every mobile phone in a region, but it was not activated on the night the fires broke out. Officials have said that they were concerned about setting off a panic and jamming roads.

That's all I'm talking about. Not fire brigades or evacuation orders or particular burning buildings. Just someone flipping a switch, turning on the warning alarm that is already in place. So people will know there is a threat of fire while they have time to collect a few things, find their car keys and turn on the TV for further information. I find that scenario far less conducive for panic than sleeping until the smell of smoke wakes them up -- the way many people in the huge California fire of a few years ago had to find out.

Why even have a system like that if you're never going to use it for fear of someone having a heart attack when they hear it?

Our Ohio tornado alarm goes off four or five times a year, and I've never hear of it causing any problem for anyone.

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Twilight

Puddleglum's sister
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California's worst fire before this one was known as 2003 Cedar Fire. Wikipedia says this about the people who died:
quote:
Overnight, the fast-moving fire killed 12 people living in Wildcat Canyon and Muth Valley in the northern part of Lakeside, who had little or no warning that the fire was approaching.
I'm sure they would have liked to have had some advanced notice and it may be why the current system was put in place.

Dateline did a two hour special interviewing the survivors of that fire. Lack of warning was the biggest factor in all their stories.

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Ohher
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I've never been close to a forest fire. I once had a small kitchen fire which panicked me.

Where I live, emergencies have a different character and unfold more gradually: low-level hurricanes (they're generally just bad wind & rainstorms by the time they hit central New England); ice storms; Nor'easters; spring floods from snowmelt and heavy rains, long severe cold snaps, etc.

With rare exceptions, these events come with plenty of advance warning. For days before they strike, they're the subject of news stories in print, on TV and radio; in Internet weather forecasts, in advisory public service announcements about having bottled water on hand, plus emergency lighting and non-perishable foods, and on and on.

Despite all this advance notice, the first slippery weather of every oncoming winter sees dozens, sometimes hundreds, of accidents -- cars off the road, the occasional multi-car pile-up; every extended severe cold snap will bring news of people dead of exposure -- on their own front porches, or trying to climb Mt. Washington in sandals in November, or freezing to death in snowbank because the victims can't hack the homeless shelter's rules.

High-water events always find surfers, swimmers, or kayakers drowned in rip currents. Teenagers dare each other to leap into raging spring torrents and their bodies are never recovered.

I feel for Twilight's anguish over the seemingly reckless decision to not use sirens.

But I've lived in New England, with her slow, well-advertised, emergencies, for most of my life, through hurricanes, blizzards, crippling ice storms, and more. The reactions of my fellow New Englanders to potentially life-threatening disasters does not inspire confidence in their ability to cope with the urgency and immediacy and fearsomeness of raging fires.

Nearly always, victims seemed to have believed they could face down the flood, speed harmlessly over glare ice, brave the deepest cold. Similar people's reactions to fast-moving, rapidly-changing fire conditions where roads could be out, visibility terrible, and communications chancy or nonexistent may well have had similar mortal results; we'll never know.

Many of us want to lay blame when innocent, ordinary fellow-beings suffer and die, especially when we think there's some chance they could have been saved. It's understandable; we're outraged. The fact is, though, that we all deal with circumstances over which we have little control. Sometimes we make the right decisions, and sometimes we don't. We're all just struggling to do the best we can with what confronts us.

What happened to the fire victims -- to all victims everywhere -- is dreadful. Could they have been saved with a warning? There's no way to know. Those who might have used the siren, but didn't, will live with that question for the rest of their lives.

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From the Land of the Native American Brave and the Home of the Buy-One-Get-One-Free

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mousethief

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# 953

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quote:
Originally posted by Ohher:
Many of us want to lay blame when innocent, ordinary fellow-beings suffer and die, especially when we think there's some chance they could have been saved. It's understandable; we're outraged. The fact is, though, that we all deal with circumstances over which we have little control. Sometimes we make the right decisions, and sometimes we don't. We're all just struggling to do the best we can with what confronts us.

I think it has less to do with the fact that we're outraged, than that we're afraid. If we blame the victim, then we are different from them, and it can't happen to us. If they are innocent, then there is an element of random in the world that cannot be controlled or predicted, and we might be next. And that's far too scary to contemplate. So we find a reason to blame the victim. Then we know why this disaster happened to them, and can prevent it happening to us.

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“Religion doesn't fuck up people, people fuck up religion.”—lilBuddha

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Golden Key
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# 1468

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[Overused] to Oher and mt for the last two posts.

Also, some people are deeply attached to their homes, land, memories, and holding on to those is more important than anything else, and they *have* to stay put.

When Mt. St. Helens blew up, decades ago, there was an older guy named Harry Truman who stayed. His wife was buried on the property, and he refused to leave her. So he went up with the mountain. Other people died, too, but this story sticks in memory.

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Blessed Gator, pray for us!
--"Oh bat bladders, do you have to bring common sense into this?"--Dragon, "Jane & the Dragon"
--"I'm not giving up--and neither should you." --SNL

Posts: 17910 | From: Chilling out in an undisclosed, sincere pumpkin patch. | Registered: Oct 2001  |  IP: Logged
Net Spinster
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quote:
Originally posted by Twilight:
That's all I'm talking about. Not fire brigades or evacuation orders or particular burning buildings. Just someone flipping a switch, turning on the warning alarm that is already in place. So people will know there is a threat of fire while they have time to collect a few things, find their car keys and turn on the TV for further information.

I should note that with tornado warnings it is usually pretty clear where to go or what to do. With wildfires that can be far more unclear since it depends on where the fire is and what direction it is going and very few places have a place on site or very close which is safe in case of a fire no matter what.

In the meantime we have the fire crews out there trying to contain the fires. This includes the 3,550 men and 250 women who are prison inmates who do the hard and dangerous (several have been killed over the years) work of making containment lines around the fires for the princely wage of $1/hour while actually on the fire lines (plus room and board and $2/day whether or not they are on the fire lines).
CNN article Shifts can be 24 hours thought this week some have been on the line for 72 hours straight.

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spinner of webs

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RuthW

liberal "peace first" hankie squeezer
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Read the whole article and learn about the complete chaos of the situation. Embers leapt Highway 101 - a six-lane freeway.

Twilight, have you ever seen a wildfire? In October, when California is at its driest point? When there are Diablo or Santa Ana winds blowing?

I'm sure there will be lengthy, painful reconsideration of emergency plans, of fire prevention, of all kinds of things, in the wake of this disaster. But criticism from a few thousand miles away from someone who doesn't know thing one about what authorities were coping with won't be taken into account.

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Twilight

Puddleglum's sister
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No amount of changing winds or fires jumping lanes explains not sounding the alarm when they knew fires were closing in on isolated areas. Most of the people who died in the fire were elderly people who did not get any warning in time.

Alarm systems are there for a reason, they save the lives of people who need to evacuate and they save the lives of firemen who don't have to risk their own lives to go in and save someone.

There's been plenty of criticism from thousands of miles away about the handling of the hurricane devastation in Puerto Rico. We aren't asked to defend Trump's decisions because we haven't lived through a hurricane and we don't understand how hard his decisions were. All of sudden we're expected to bow to the greater wisdom of our betters and keep our mouths shut. Funny that.

[ 15. October 2017, 19:08: Message edited by: Twilight ]

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Nick Tamen

Ship's Wayfaring Fool
# 15164

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quote:
Originally posted by Twilight:
There's been plenty of criticism from thousands of miles away about the handling of the hurricane devastation in Puerto Rico. We aren't asked to defend Trump's decisions because we haven't lived through a hurricane and we don't understand how hard his decisions were.

That’s because we’re evaluating the response (or lack thereof) after the disaster. That’s not comparable to your criticism, which concerns decisions made while the disaster was still happening.

quote:
All of sudden we're expected to bow to the greater wisdom of our betters and keep our mouths shut. Funny that.
I don’t think anyone is suggesting that the emergency management people can’t make mistakes, sometimes bad ones. As Ruth said, they’ll undoubtedly be studying this to see what they did wrong and can learn from.

What people are suggesting is that it’s worth considering the possibility that people who are trained in emergency management, who do it for a living and who have experience with SoCal wildfires, just might know more about it than you do, and just might have had valid reasons for their decisions that you, with no experience or expertise, wouldn’t necessarily think of.

Considering such a possibility doesn’t seem that unreasonable to me.

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The first thing God says to Moses is, "Take off your shoes." We are on holy ground. Hard to believe, but the truest thing I know. — Anne Lamott

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Soror Magna
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We just had the worst year on record.

Fire is part of the natural forest lifecycle, and we've learned that fire suppression has long-term consequences that can lead to more severe fires. (For those converting at home, our 855,000 hectares burned = 2,113,000 acres, so almost 10 times the area burned so far in Northern California.) Our firefighters concentrate their efforts on what are called "interface fires" where populated areas meet wilderness. Because of population, geography and sprawl, California has a lot more interface to deal with and many more people affected, even though the fire area is smaller.

Decisions about evacuations and firefighting are often determined by whether or not road access to the area can be maintained. If you have areas where there is only one road in/out, and the fire moves quickly, it can be nearly impossible to predict if/when a community will get cut off. And as has been pointed out repeatedly, if the only road out of an area is blocked by people leaving, firefighters can't get in to that area to fight the fire. And people die in evacuations.

And yeah, shit happens. Errors of judgment happen. We had a controlled burn go out of control because the wind shifted at exactly the wrong time and everybody had a lot to say about that too. I think the best comment was, "They [controlled burns] should be lit when conditions are ideal." [Roll Eyes]

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"You come with me to room 1013 over at the hospital, I'll show you America. Terminal, crazy and mean." -- Tony Kushner, "Angels in America"

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RooK

1 of 6
# 1852

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quote:
Originally posted by Twilight:
No amount of changing winds or fires jumping lanes explains not sounding the alarm when they knew fires were closing in on isolated areas.

Sure, that's exactly what happened. It's not at all possible that when they were considering the warning it was not much of a threat, and that the very next thing they knew it was too late. No, these people could only be evil let-people-burn assholes, just as you insist.

Gosh: Lucky I'm not religious, and have to deal with any pesky rules about not hating people arbitrarily.

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Twilight

Puddleglum's sister
# 2832

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quote:
Originally posted by Nick Tamen:
That’s not comparable to your criticism, which concerns decisions made while the disaster was still happening.


What people are suggesting is that it’s worth considering the possibility that people who are trained in emergency management, who do it for a living and who have experience with SoCal wildfires, just might know more about it than you do, and just might have had valid reasons for their decisions that you, with no experience or expertise, wouldn’t necessarily think of.

Considering such a possibility doesn’t seem that unreasonable to me.

I guess we could consider the possibility that Donald Trump has access to information we don't have and more experience dealing with international politics than you do so his decisions regarding haw to manage Kim Jung Un are above reproach by ordinary people like you. In fact we probably should delete the Trump thread in Purgatory altogether, because who are we to question the decisions of those who are more professional and experienced?

If the people in charge in California had good reasons for why they didn't use the alarms on the first night they might have deigned to share those reasons with the NY Times reporters, rather than just; "but [the alarm] was not activated on the night the fires broke out. Officials have said that they were concerned about setting off a panic and jamming roads." There was little chance that the old people who lived in isolated areas were going to cause traffic jams on country roads.

The average age of the people who died was 79. Is there no sympathy for them at all?
So far all I've seen is sympathy for the poor people who had to make decisions.

If my grandparents had been in danger and the local authorities had known they were in danger but decided not to let them know -- for whatever reason -- and they had died, I would be angry. Any talk of the greater good regarding traffic jams wouldn't cut it. They aren't volunteers in a military operation they are civilian residents.

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Twilight

Puddleglum's sister
# 2832

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quote:
Originally posted by RooK:
quote:
Originally posted by Twilight:
No amount of changing winds or fires jumping lanes explains not sounding the alarm when they knew fires were closing in on isolated areas.

Sure, that's exactly what happened. It's not at all possible that when they were considering the warning it was not much of a threat, and that the very next thing they knew it was too late. No, these people could only be evil let-people-burn assholes, just as you insist.

Gosh: Lucky I'm not religious, and have to deal with any pesky rules about not hating people arbitrarily.

I'm not hating anyone. I'm questioning authority.

I'm sure there were situations where conditions changed too suddenly to do anything. I'm not talking about those situations.

I'm talking about the particular instance covered in the NY Times article where they did have time to sound the alarm and did not because they feared panic and traffic jams. Their own words.

I've been very specific about what I'm upset about through this whole thread but you and several others are hell-bent on inventing things and conditions I haven't mentioned at all.

People can make decisions, with which I disagree, without me thinking they are evil assholes out to kill people.

All my life I have seen examples where I thought "fear of panic," caused bad decisions. I think that's what happened in a few cases here.

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Doc Tor
Deepest Red
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The obvious thing is for you to apply for the job of pressing the alarm button. With your natal intuition and level-headed approach, you'll be a shoo-in.

Because you'll clearly be able to read the threats properly, never have a false alarm nor wait too long so that people die unnecessarily. Not like those other people.

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Forward the New Republic

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lilBuddha
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# 14333

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quote:
Originally posted by Twilight:
I'm not hating anyone. I'm questioning authority.


Questioning the actions taken during an emergency is a good thing. Indeed, it will be done when all this is over. And keeping that reckoning in the light is also a good thing. However, you are drawing conclusions from a line in a news article, rather than a more full account. And this is something many of us have done in the past, admittedly.
This accusation, though
quote:
I specifically blamed only the people who knew the fire was headed for the trailer park and decided not to sound the siren.
is over the top.
The article does not say they knew a fire was headed towards the trailer park. Only that they feared a broadcast alert would cause panic. And in the words of the reporter, not those who made the decision.

[ 15. October 2017, 23:53: Message edited by: lilBuddha ]

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So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

- A. N. Parsley, D. Mcvinni

Posts: 16911 | From: the round earth's imagined corners | Registered: Dec 2008  |  IP: Logged
RooK

1 of 6
# 1852

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quote:
Originally posted by Twilight:
The average age of the people who died was 79. Is there no sympathy for them at all?
So far all I've seen is sympathy for the poor people who had to make decisions.

It's a narrow lens you have there. That this is a tragedy is unquestionable. That we need to find some way to do better is clear - both in terms of emergency response and basic residential planning. The groaning sprawl of humans in California has all kinds of lurking horrors associated with it, and susceptibility to wildfires after a major drought is just one. The possibility that emergency reporting and response has a tiered effectiveness based on social strata has a big portion of my lurking ire over this.

But the poorly-paid schlubs manning the actual emergency comms center? Yeah, no, I'm not going to second-guess their motives based solely on a superficial reading of a single news report. That's the core of my pushing back on you here.

[ 16. October 2017, 00:23: Message edited by: RooK ]

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Nick Tamen

Ship's Wayfaring Fool
# 15164

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quote:
Originally posted by Twilight:
I'm not hating anyone. I'm questioning authority.

I'm sure there were situations where conditions changed too suddenly to do anything. I'm not talking about those situations.

I'm talking about the particular instance covered in the NY Times article where they did have time to sound the alarm and did not because they feared panic and traffic jams. Their own words.

The problem is that your questioning of authority seems to be based solely on emotion, as suggested by the ridiculous assumption that not agreeing with you = no sympathy for the victims. What utter bull.

What your questioning of authority does not seem to be based on is an informed understanding, as suggested by the seeming unwillingness to recognize that concern about traffic jams and panic isn’t patronizing. Traffic jams and panic could have made things much worse and resulted in more deaths.

Questioning authority is a good thing, a very good thing. But the questioning tends to carry more weight when the questioner appears to understand the issues.

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The first thing God says to Moses is, "Take off your shoes." We are on holy ground. Hard to believe, but the truest thing I know. — Anne Lamott

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simontoad
Ship's Amphibian
# 18096

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Twilight, you are not alone in hating Churchill. My Irish mate's Dad apparently flies into a rage at the mere mention of Winston's name. I'm not sure why, but I'm sure it has something to do with Ireland. I have a Winston Churchill t-shirt and my mate is constantly trying to get me to wear it in his father's presence, just to see him boil.

I'm a nice person though. My mate's mistake was to tell me. He should have just arranged a meeting. I suppose it would have been tough to get me to wear the t-shirt without me twigging that something was up.

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Human

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Carex
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# 9643

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Though I'm at a distance, these fires were metaphorically close to home for me. My brother has a small business in Santa Rosa, and was there fighting the spot fires as the flames approached before the wind shifted and the buildings were saved. But the homes a block down the street are gone.

I received firefighter training when I worked for the US Forest Service, and fought a few smaller ones. I've also had the task of going through the remains of burned houses looking for those who didn't make it out, following a fast moving fire that roared into a city. The smell of smoke has dispersed, but the memories remain. That one also jumped a 6-lane freeway. But that's not really all that far: it isn't uncommon for a fast fire to jump to the next ridge half a mile in advance, as the hot air blowing ahead of the fire dries out the fuels for the hot embers to catch.

What were the numbers I saw? At one point the fire in Santa Rosa traveled 6 miles in 16 minutes, or something like that. Remember, these were being driven by hurricane force winds. How fast can you run 6 miles? Remember that the most common form of death in a fire is inhaling superheated air that blows ahead of the flames, searing the inside of your lungs. Can you run 6 miles without breathing?


Tornado warnings are useful because people know what to do, and (hopefully) have a shelter in or near their house so they don't have to travel far. Along the coast we have tsunami warning sirens, with designated paths to high spots. (And people are encouraged to evacuate on foot as it causes less congestion.) That's not the case with a fire - people have to get out of the path, so you have to tell them where you think the fire is going, and where to evacuate to that you know will be safe (which, in Santa Rosa, you really didn't know.) You can't just outrun such a fire - you have to move sideways out of the path. It requires more information than can be conveyed by a siren.

The Amber Alert system isn't going to help, either. I don't know of anyone who got more than 3 alerts for incidents over 100 miles away before they disabled them on their phone. And even if you can narrow the coverage down to just a certain community, or section of a community, you have to try to figure out who is at risk and who isn't, when a minor change in the winds will totally change that. And, of course, that requires that folks have smart phones that can receive such messages, and can hear it ring. The elderly are certainly most at risk in both cases.


Look at a topo map around Santa Rosa: the fire came from the Northeast. From those portions of the city proper that burned, the visual horizon is less than 3 miles away. (For folks on the wrong side of the hills, it is even closer.)

If the fire is covering 6 miles in 16 minutes, that means you have at most 8 minutes of advance warning, assuming you know the path it will actually take. It looks like the areas where the fire passed the furthest into the urban area was where the wind funneled through a small opening in the hills, but that would be very difficult to tell from ground level, and highly dependent on the exact direction of the wind.


Would it be good to have a better warning system? Yes, and there may be some progress after this event. But that's only a small piece of the answer, and it isn't going to prevent as many fire-related deaths as some might hope.

More important: people, particularly those who live in among the dry forests, need to understand the risks of fire. I doubt there were any residents in the hills NE of Santa Rosa who didn't know there was a major fire in the area the day before it spread so fast, or that it was being driven by high winds. The weather service posted warnings for low humidity, high winds, and high fire danger. The smoke in the air should have been a strong clue, along with the news coverage on TV and radio. That's the time to prepare to evacuate, and get out, especially if you have limited access options, rather than waiting for the flames to come over the hill into view. Fires are fiendishly unpredictable, especially when driven by strong, variable winds, as the region had been experiencing.

We'd like to think that we have fires under control, but really we don't. We've seen too many fires throughout the west in the last few years that crews were helpless to stop or even slow down, until they hit a natural firebreak, ran out of fuel, or slowed due to weather changes.

There are definite risks in living among trees and brush, particularly in a dry climate. Unfortunately, we haven't talked enough about those risks publicly: it might lower the price of hillside real estate, and the more well-to-do who can afford to live in the good areas often don't want to be bothered with thinking about such things. We don't like to be reminded that we aren't in control, and there are natural forces that we still can't contain.


But we aren't, and there are.

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Gee D
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# 13815

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quote:
Originally posted by simontoad:
Twilight, you are not alone in hating Churchill. My Irish mate's Dad apparently flies into a rage at the mere mention of Winston's name

I'm no fan of Churchill either - the great love he had for the Empire, the poor decision to invade at Gallipoli, the decision to go back onto gold, the reluctance to move towards independence for India, Pakistan and other colonies. But you also have to understand that the conclusion from Dead Wake is more argument than undisputed fact.

It's very easy to sit back and say that this could have been done, or that could have been done. It's what the press does all the time with the benefit of hindsight and a lack of understanding of what may well have been going on on the ground. Could the roads have taken all that extra traffic - and even were the roads safe from fire? There have been terrible tragedies here when those fleeing fires have been caught on roads. What wind changes were there and how predictable were any changes? A myriad of questions to be answered based upon examination of all the facts, not assertions made at a considerable distance with next to no knowledge.

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Not every Anglican in Sydney is Sydney Anglican

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Firenze

Ordinary decent pagan
# 619

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quote:
Originally posted by lilBuddha:
And in the words of the reporter, not those who made the decision.

A noteworthy point. The monstrous prosecution of seismologists in the wake of the L'Aquila earthquake was based on the spin given by a PR man to their perfectly orthodox conclusions - which in the present state of the science, do not run to prediction, but to risk assessment.

[ 16. October 2017, 10:49: Message edited by: Firenze ]

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Doc Tor
Deepest Red
# 9748

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I have friends who are haunted by their inability to predict the next failure of the Anatolian fault system.

They know with 100% certainty that it'll happen, with considerably less certainty as to where, and less still as to when. People will die, and there's not a damn thing they can do about it.

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Forward the New Republic

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