Communication matters

Kim Klockow identified that the issue that so much effort was being put into tornado education to ensure people understood the consequences of the tornado, but this wasn’t changing people’s attitudes to leaving.

This content was educational and informative, but it wasn’t effective at getting people to take action, which was the overarching goal.

Even the weather warnings themselves contained too much information about barometric pressure, windspeeds and other pieces of information that the average person could not understand, nor did they need to.

It was written by meteorologists, but not for people.

She identified to the need to better communicate the threat to the people of Oklahoma when a tornado was imminent.

Warnings were created in a clearer and simpler manner that people would be more likely to take note fo the.

There were people in the meteorology department who questioned the approach, likening it to marketing a product, but the impact was strong.

In 2015, something interesting happened.

An incoming tornado was imminent, but it was masked in a heavy storm that made it impossible to see until 20-minutes before impact, leaving little for people to hesitate.

The alarm was broadcast, and it just so happened that new warning messages were being trialled at the time.

The tornado was huge, leaving a trail of devastation in the area that it hit (that I cannot recall - let’s called it “Oko”).

An emergency management official happened to be behind the tornado was it came through Oko and he expected there to be many deaths based on the damage.

The last time a similar tornado had hit Oko, 25 people had died.

But as he went between houses of people he knew without basements, he found they weren’t there.

They had heeded the warnings and sought out shelter.

In the end, not one person died during the tornado.

A major difference between this tornado and the one that claimed 25 lives was how the warnings were communicated.

Tom Fitzgerald