Red Alert: When the alarm goes!

On my commute I do what I suspect most commuters do, sit in my own world with my headphones listening to music, watching something, or browsing around internet. But today on my way home an alarm went off on my mobile. Not only mine, I could hear the alarm blasting all over the bus. “RED ALERT! Rain”!

Rain? In August? In North-western Norway? Have the people sending out the alarm EVER been to this region of Norway?

Some context

Alert Button

A few months ago, the new alarming system for the Civil Defence was publically tested and went online. It allows for alerting directly to any mobile phone, and they can use geo-fencing to target alarms and warnings to specific areas. The alarm is in the form of a loud audible air raid sound, both in the headphones and on the speakers of any activated mobile, followed by a text message in the display.

Further, there are an ongoing extreme weather, the depression Hans, with predictions of extreme rainfall and strong winds. For parts of Norway there are forecasts of a months worth of rainfall in less than 48 hours.

The Purpose of Civil Defense Alarms

Now, what is the purpose of sending out an alarm such as this? And the answer might be one or more of a rather long list. First off, there are an actual Red Warning Level for Extreme Rainfall in parts of Norway, though my region is not under this Red Warning. Furthermore, there is an Orange Warning Level immediately around the Red zone, with a Yellow Warning outside that. In Norway, Yellow indicates a slightly elevated warning, followed by Orange to Red, and even to Purple, though to my knowledge Purple have such a high risk that it most likely would be reserved for something like an ongoing armed uprising or something along these lines.

As I mentioned, my region is not within the Red Warning zone, and neither is it within the Orange Warning zone. We are actually on the outer boundary of the Yellow Warning. With the geo-fencing abilities of this alarm system, I would have expected them to limit this alarm to the Red zone, and maybe include the Orange zone, as I suspect most of the population, at least those who are expected to travel further than their normal commute, most likely had learned about these warnings through NEWS or SoMe sources.

So what about the alarm?

As I said, I think there is a rather long list of reasons for the alarm. Of course there is this thing about the weather situation, but during my lifetime, this is the first time I have experienced use of the equivalent of air ride sirens to warn about extreme weather. I will not go into a discussion of the reason of the extreme weather in this post, as that topic will merit a post of its own at some point, so lets focus on the alarm.


One reason for the alarm might be that this is in the middle of the tourist season. Many tourists are traveling around Norway by their own means, a large portion of which in camper vans, and many of these are also foreigners who most likely would not get the warning through news. I would guess SoMe communities for tourism groups, “We who like to drive camper vans in Norway” or such, would have somebody relay the warnings, but I would not expect all the tourists to be in such groups, so most likely only a small fraction of them might be familiar with such weather warnings.


Another reason is that this kind of warnings have been widely used in other parts of the world, and, somebody figured that “heck if the Americans do this than this is probably a good idea”. And I am somewhat divided. Yes it is a good idea to use more technology to reach out about dangerous events or situations, but there ought to be a guideline for when to use it. Overusing an alarm would be just the same as “the boy who cried wolf“.


Liability might be another reason, and I feel this is something that is moving us towards a negative americanization trend. If we get programmed that the authorities should send out alarms to move liability for damages from the government to the population, than we are going into a dangerous territory. What happens if there was not sent out a warning? And what happens with insurance claims for those trapped in an area where a warning has been sent out? I do not know the answer to those questions, and neither do I want to theorize on it.


The last point I want to pull out is FEAR. I’m not saying this IS one of the reasons, merely stating it could be. Fear is a way to passify people. Spread fear in the population, control the nerrative in media, and you can get away with just about anything. For some, the War on Terror have been routed in this. Make sure people stay at home for the fear of what goes on. Sell them cheap and short term happiness while at it. Now how does this alarm tie in with that? Well, the warning literally say “danger of landslides, flash floods, and property damages, avoid travelling, stay at home and secure your belongings”.

Is there a reason for panic?

In defence of those issuing the warning, only last week several houses was damaged in a landslide only an hour driving from my location. Sudden extreme rain had caused flashfloods and saturation of the ground resulting in a number of landslides. Several creeks and rivers going over their banks. 64 persons was evacuated, including tourists. For a time there was farm animals missing, that had been grazing directly in the path of some of the landslides. Side note: all animals are accounted for. The only injury was a person falling while trying to get to safety, and was taken care off by ambulance shortly after.


In the Red Zone, I’d say the warnings are warranted. There are forecasts of extreme rainfall, and, specially in the inland where water have to drain to the rivers, there are a real risk of flashfloods and closed roads. But here west in the country, with the Yellow alert, the amounts of rainfall is not likely to cause any immediate dangers. Flashfloods are not likely since most rain water drains directly to the sea. Some areas might have a somewhat risk of landslides, but I’d guess that depends on extremely local conditions. And we live with this kind of weather most of the year. To have the alarm blast on my commute any given day would just be another “cry wolf”.

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