Good afternoon - just a few odds and ends I wanted to share with you.
"After Mastering Physics, Meteorologists Must Now Master Psychology."
The Associated Press ran this story yesterday, pointing out that while our weather forecasting skills are getting better, experts are struggling to understand when the optimal time is for sharing information about severe weather. Specifically,
Forecasters at the federal Storm Prediction Center see a high chance of severe storms, with possible killer tornadoes, next Tuesday in Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas. Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Craig Fugate said the early heads-up helps disaster officials prepare, but what about you: Do you really need to worry - or even know about it - this far in advance?
Apparently, having too much warning time can hinder the ability of citizens to respond. I get it; our lives are busy. I can appreciate the fact there's a good chance of tornadoes three days from now. But for many people with kids and hectic schedules, there's a lot of baseball games, soccer practices and science projects that must be completed between now and then.
For some of us (and I include myself in this category), we actually plan our schedules and activities based upon the risk of severe weather. For me, I suspect that is the result of being raised on a farm and watching the weather as as result.
What's interesting is that experts "found in a study published in 2011 that if people had an hour's notice of a tornado's arrival, many would try to flee, putting them in the path of danger. With 15 minutes' notice, they would seek shelter."
Texas Emergency Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday Update
The sales tax holiday, which you can read more about here, runs through midnight tonight. (In full disclosure, I lobbied for the passage of Senate Bill 904, which creates the holiday.)
I don't have any data as to how many people are taking advantage of it. The Texas Comptroller will likely have data in the coming weeks to that effect. Some people are complaining that the holiday only helps those who can afford to spend money on disaster supplies and does nothing to help those who cannot.
That criticism is well founded in its initial assumption. I discuss the efficacy of emergency preparedness sales tax holidays in Pivot Points:
Researchers at The Tax Foundation take issue with [the efficacy of preparedness sales tax holidays]. Studying the various state tax holidays across the country, the organization concluded such holidays do not lead to people buying more preparedness items. It contends consumers simply wait to buy things they were already planning to purchase during tax free weekends. Further, research indicates many retailers raise prices during sales tax holidays, reducing the actual benefit consumers expect to receive during sales tax-free shopping.
The Foundation singled out Virginia’s hurricane preparedness sales tax holiday for further analysis. Virginia exempts a number of helpful items during its sales tax holiday, such as cell phone chargers and duct tape. Yet other similar items, such as laptop chargers and electrical tape are not exempted. The Foundation goes on to point out that if these items are such good preparedness purchases, shouldn’t they be exempt year round? In the end, the organization concludes sales tax holidays are less about good preparedness and more about making those politicians who support sales tax holidays look good.
Assuming The Tax Foundation's analysis is correct, it's important to note that the Texas sales tax holiday - along with the media coverage and marketing efforts of vendors to promote it - has the effect of encouraging people to make preparedness a priority. The free media and marketing promoting that has been generated by this holiday has a significant monetary value that preparedness advocacy groups could not reasonably spend on their own.
Complain about the efficacy of the tax holiday to stimulate purchases of items on the approved list all you want, but we would not be promoting preparedness to this extent if the holiday didn't exist.
REI Jumps The Shark And Gets On Board With Preparedness
REI - known for its granola outlook on life - is doing its part here in Central Texas to create a culture of preparedness. They are now offering free courses called "Prepare for the Unexpected: Urban Emergency Preparedness." Last year, I took a number of their classes (they do an excellent job, by the way) and suggested they consider doing one on how to use the gear in their store in the event of an emergency at home. I don't know if my comment helped drive the initiative to start the class, but they are doing these fairly regularly now. I'm attending the next one in June and looking forward to it.
Here's where I tell you what I think about things I think about.