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Why Warnings Go Unheeded

The Cassandra Curse that impacts emergency managers.

Here is another Hidden Brain Podcast that has impact for emergency managers, see The Cassandra Curse: Why We Heed Some Warnings, And Ignore Others.

I think they could have tied the entire podcast together a bit better, but I did pick up on the main point of the story of Cassandra Quoting from the link:

"The Cassandra metaphor (variously labeled the Cassandra 'syndrome', 'complex', 'phenomenon', 'predicament', 'dilemma' or 'curse') occurs when valid warnings or concerns are dismissed or disbelieved.

The term originates in Greek mythology. Cassandra was a daughter of Priam, the King of Troy. Struck by her beauty, Apollo provided her with the gift of prophecy, but when Cassandra refused Apollo's romantic advances, he placed a curse ensuring that nobody would believe her warnings. Cassandra was left with the knowledge of future events, but could neither alter these events nor convince others of the validity of her predictions."

I feel the Cassandra Curse just about every day. Based on the description above, it would appear that Cassandra had no credibility. But there was a more significant aspect to her warnings in that, as explained in the podcast, her warnings were not articulated in a manner that they could be understood by anyone. So while she could predict the future, her manner of speaking and providing a warning went unheeded.

Jump now to the year 2018 and there are lots of warnings to be given about disasters that can and will occur, the need for personal and family preparedness, the challenge of businesses becoming prepared, etc. Not to mention low frequency, high impact hazards. Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) for instance. A topic I talk about and have written about, but no one else seems to be really concerned with. 

I for one am always blaming others for their lack of acknowledgment of the risks that they have. As I point the finger at them, should I be looking at the three fingers pointing back at me and how I, like Cassandra, am not articulating the warning intelligibly. I'm sure that Cassandra thought she was doing a great job in describing what was going to happen and that it was falling on deaf ears, because they would not listen.

Most of the time we think of "warnings" as what we issue at he immediate onset of a hazard, e.g., a tornado headed this way. In reality, we are in the business of providing warnings every day. 

The podcast above made me think more about this topic. How can I change my behavior, my speech, my writings to do a better job of talking about hazards and the people I'm trying to communicate with so they they can change behaviors to better protect people, property and the environment. 

Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.