Every first Wednesday of the month, the city tests out their tornado warning system. At about noon, the sirens start to go off for about 5 minutes. As the sirens wail away, I am often reminded of the times when the sirens have been going off due to a real tornado in the area.

As a west coast native, the thought of deadly weather from above was never something that kept me up at night. Earthquakes were the disaster of the day. At best, you’d end up being woken in the middle of the night by a slight jolt. Nothing big. Here in the South, tornadoes are anything but a “slight jolt”.

Back in January, we had a freak outbreak of weather that had a tornado barreling down towards my house. According to the weatherman, who was calling out street names around us, we were “under the gun”. Not hearing anything outside, including the tornado warning system, I questioned the weatherman’s prediction. As he continued to shout, rant, and scream on the television –I wish I was joking but the weatherman was panicked– I decided to step outside and take a look. Probably not the smartest thing but why not.

Still not hearing any sirens, I opened the door to the backyard and looked around. The sky was perfectly calm and everything was still — I later learned that this happens before a tornado…guess the movie Twister didn’t teach me everything–. So I walked back into the house only to hear that the tornado had dissipated right before hitting my neighborhood. Close call I guess.

In retrospect, the behavior of the weatherman was absolutely terrible. Perhaps he was just relaying the information as he saw it, but he was inducing fear and panic as he spoke. There is a way to communicate life-threatening information without causing people to panic.

Communication is hard for many people, including me. (How many times have you assumed that someone was on the same page as you when they weren’t?) However, learning to communicate properly seems to be a life long process. Be it mass communicating with a siren or quieting speaking with a spouse.

Consider this your Public Service Announcement for the day.

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