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[Opinion] Emergency Alert

Posted September. 09, 2004 21:58,   


The British government has recently launched a leaflet under the slogan of “Go in, stay in, tune in.” The booklet “Preparing for Emergencies: What You Need to Know” has been distributed to every household nationwide to prepare the public for terrorist attacks or natural disasters. A website has also been set up to inform people of the details. However, an unexpected incident came up. Thomas Scott, a college sophomore, recently parodied the government’s website to build a spoof site of his own, which looked almost identical to the official site. For example, Scott added footnotes that were not in the original instructions such as “Terrorists nowadays are not satisfied with one bomb,” following the original instruction, “Stay indoors if there is a bomb attack in the event of a second explosion.”

The British government sent an email to Scott asking him to take down his website in case the public gets confused. Scott argued that more people are amused than confused looking at his parodies. The BBC Internet reported that this incident well represents the fear and paranoia of British people. So much for the parody website, but the simple and concise instructions in case of an emergency promoted by the British government is not to be taken lightly. Few people act on their common sense when a real emergency occurs. You may think you would go around heavy smoke, but most people actually tend to go through it when faced with the real situation.

The United States launched a color-coded terror alert system six months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The risk level starts from green, rising to white, yellow, orange, and red. The citizens were put on guard in the beginning, but they are now accusing the government of crying wolf and are even developing “alert fatigue symptoms.” Some people even protest that the government’s initiative to elevate the alert level to “Code Orange” on August 1 is a political tactic in response to presidential candidate John Kerry’s rise in approval ratings.

Korea’s National Security Council (NSC) has also recently released “Guidance on National Emergency Management.” Each color of blue, yellow, orange, and red indicates the danger levels of concern, attention, alert, and serious respectively, and instructions for each stage of threat are given by the government departments and agencies. Nonetheless, the manual on 30 emergency types in three areas of security, disaster, and key infrastructure does not warn people of how dangerous the current situation is. If people fail to recognize the current danger as a present danger, what is the use of “emergency management?”

Kim Sun-deok, Editorial writer, yuri@donga.com