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Computer Issues Create Problems for Warning Sirens In Multiple States

Emergency Sirens in Washington State, Kansas, and Minnesota Affected

2 min read
Computer Issues Create Problems for Warning Sirens In Multiple States

June hasn't been a particularly good month for anyone depending on emergency sirens for warning them of impending trouble.

In early June, false volcano warnings sounded over 50 tsunami sirens in Clallam, Jefferson, Grays Harbor and Pacific counties were caused by a software programming error in a button used to test the sirens, a Peninsula Daily Newsstory reported. Apparently, instead of sending out a test message when pressed, it sent out a real warning of a volcanic eruption along the Pacific and Strait of Juan de Fuca coasts.

Then in mid June, tornado sirens were sounded 9 minutes late in Shawnee County, Kansas, television station KTKA news reported. Both human and computer error were originally faulted, but it turns out installation issues with the new tornado siren system were at fault as well. New software was installed after the incident to prevent it from happening again.

Then this week, 10 tornado warning sirens failed to sound in northwest Rochester, Minnesota as an EF-1 tornadocame through because software that was supposed to turn them on didn't work properly. According to this Post-Bulletinstory,

"The local computer system was upgraded about three weeks ago, but it had problems and crashed a few times, so the old software was reinstalled, he said. However, it failed to accept one file on Thursday evening - the one that controlled sirens for northwest Rochester, which was where the tornado hit."

The software was fixed the next morning, but government emergency management officials said the computer company was still trying to figure out what went wrong.

Emergency management officials in Rochester also said that people should not depend on sirens alone for their storm warnings.

Good advice. However, other warning systems can have problems as well. Last year, I wrote about software problems with an emergency email/text message/phone warning notification system in Ft. Collins, Colorado - also coincidentally in June.

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Why Functional Programming Should Be the Future of Software Development

It’s hard to learn, but your code will produce fewer nasty surprises

11 min read
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A plate of spaghetti made from code
Shira Inbar
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You’d expectthe longest and most costly phase in the lifecycle of a software product to be the initial development of the system, when all those great features are first imagined and then created. In fact, the hardest part comes later, during the maintenance phase. That’s when programmers pay the price for the shortcuts they took during development.

So why did they take shortcuts? Maybe they didn’t realize that they were cutting any corners. Only when their code was deployed and exercised by a lot of users did its hidden flaws come to light. And maybe the developers were rushed. Time-to-market pressures would almost guarantee that their software will contain more bugs than it would otherwise.

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