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News You Can Use – Air Horns and Sirens
By David Bachelor, PhD
The news this week is alarming. That is to say, “alarms” are the subject of two stories making the headlines. In one story the alarms are sirens, and the other narrative features air horns.
Amid the tragedy of the wildfires in Hawaii that have claimed at least 93 lives, various news agencies are reporting the failure of the emergency notification system. The August 13th headline of The Hill was, “Hawaii Lawmaker Said Sirens ‘Likely Did Not Go Off’ As Maui Wildfire Raged.” Despite monthly testing, the system appeared to have not been activated. The lawmaker noted, “While there were some warning signals on cell phones, some areas had no cell coverage or electricity to receive such signals.” The Associated Press coverage of this story contained interviews with survivors. The article stated, “They didn’t hear any sirens or receive a warning that gave them enough time to prepare, realizing they were in danger only when they saw flames or heard explosions nearby.”
A different “alarm” story comes from a situation in Northern California. The online news site Hoodline.com on August 9th featured, “Air Horns of Horror: Oakland Police Recommend Noise Makers Amid Skyrocketing Crime Surge.” The suggested reliance on airhorns is due to the Oakland Police Officers’ Association recognizing the department is understaffed by 500 officers, “… based on the city’s population and call volume.”
The August 9th Washington Examiner headline was, “Air Horns Aren’t Going to Protect Oakland from Pro-Criminal Policies.” The article details the rise in crime, “Burglaries are up 41% in Oakland compared to last year, and robberies are up 20%. Compared to 2019, thefts and assaults have doubled, and carjackings have tripled.” Residents of the city have been told by police officials “… to carry air horns with them so they can alert their neighbors when they are being attacked.”
The Bible is replete with “alarming” stories. This comes as no surprise since the Middle East has been a dangerous place from time immemorial. The best-known story of pre-crisis notification is found in the book of Nehemiah. While the returning exiles from Jerusalem were rebuilding the city’s protective walls, they were in constant danger of enemy attack. Nehemiah made sure the workers were armed, and he had the bugler stay next to himself (Neh 4:18). Nehemiah told the civic leaders and the people, “The work sites are widely dispersed. Wherever you hear the bugle, join us there. Our God will fight for us!” (Neh 4:19-20).
The prophet Ezekiel shared a revelation from God that is alarming in a spiritual sense. What happened in Hawaii is never to take place amongst God’s people: “If the watchman sees the enemy coming and doesn’t sound the alarm and warn the people, he is responsible for their deaths. They will die in their sins, but I will charge the watchman with their deaths” (Eze 33:6). God does not, as in California, tell his people to get an air horn and fend for themselves.