“Warning Fatigue” Blamed for Dozens of Deaths in Ida Flooding

Date: 2021-09-09 10:01:58

Experts say “warning fatigue” may be to blame for dozens of deaths from flooding in the northeast after multiple text alerts and other weather warnings were not taken seriously.

Harris County in recent years has sent out warnings for hurricanes, flooding, the threat of COVID, AMBER alerts and even a recent Blue Alert from North Texas.

“We do live in a society today that is largely a culture of fear, so there’s a tendency to want to exaggerate even modest threats. At a certain point, average citizens and news consumers maybe don’t take those seriously enough,” says Jeff McCall, professor of communication at DePauw University.

He says alerts are no longer important if it happens all the time. Then there’s the growing mistrust over COVID.

“It should prompt a lot of study and introspection as to how do we best get information out to protect people but not to send them into a frenzy or become like Chicken Little with everybody thinking the sky is falling, where it just becomes too much for people to manage,” McCall Added.

Harris County emergency management officials did not respond to emails seeking comment.

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