Friday, April 11, 2008

Vandy's Sirens: Premature and Desensitizing

This morning as weather stations were specifically saying that there was a "thunderstorm watch, but no tornado watch" Vanderbilt tornado sirens sounded and VU students received text messages that a tornado was on the way. Given that I was watching the weather reports at work while the big late morning storm line came through, I was at first discombobulated by the sound of Vandy's horns and then miffed by later news from meteorologists that while VU was sounding its horns, Metro's horns were silent. I'm not sure I will be able to take the horns quite as seriously should they sound in the future, given Vandy's premature trigger finger.

I wouldn't be surprised if the neighborhood and homeowners associations around the campus have something to say about Vanderbilt coordinating their horn system with Metro in the future so that they can take authentic warnings as seriously as they should.


  1. A Vandy student was killed during a tornado several years ago - an incident which prompted the installation of a warning system - so they may be more sensitive to the possibility of severe weather. Better safe than sorry - or as the overly protective element of our society is fond of saying... "if it saves even one life, it is worth it"

  2. I was working on the Peabody campus at the time that the student was killed at Centennial Park, so I can understand why they are trying to be vigilant. However, turning on the sirens when there is no general warning and no coordination with Metro actually has the opposite effect on both the Vanderbilt community and the neighborhoods around Vanderbilt.

    People might take sirens less seriously knowing that VU sounds them during severe thunderstorms without reference to tornadic activity. It's like crying wolf with good rather than bad intentions: the dulling effect on people is still the same.

    And it's not like Nashville is not sensitive to the death and destruction of tornadoes. The reason we have county-wide sirens is because of past twisters like the one that destroyed a large section of East Nashville.