By Nancy Black
One team made a good decision. One team made a bad one. Hundreds of lives were saved by that first decision. Hundreds (perhaps thousands) of lives were endangered by the second. One decision was based on safety. One was based on revenues.
On Sunday evening, when the National Weather Service issued a tornado watch, a team of employees made the decision to close the Home Depot on Forest Lane in Dallas. The store sent all its workers and shoppers out of the area before the worst of the weather arrived. The entire store was destroyed by a tornado less than one hour later.
Around the same time the Home Depot people were making their decision, I was driving home down Buckner Blvd. toward Northwest Highway. The lake side of the sky was pitch black; on my right, it was still orange from the setting sun. My cell phone’s emergency alert sounded loudly, announcing the approaching severe weather. I quickly made it home a few minutes later and immediately turned on the TV so I could hear an update about the approaching storms. Instead, I got an update about the Dallas Cowboys football game.
A team of professionals at KXAS, channel 5 in Dallas, made the decision to stay with the NFL game rather than alerting their viewers to the impending danger. As a former Dallas television news staffer myself (not at KXAS), I strongly suspect the bottom line for that decision was based on revenues. Their meteorologists must have been pulling their hair out. The biggest weather event to hit the area, literally, in years, and they are having to wait for a commercial break to tell their viewers?!
On Tuesday evening, KXAS management issued an apology for their poor decision making, calling it a mistake.
“When it comes to dealing with severe weather, we know that seconds matter. We should have broken into football programming sooner,” the station posted on their website. “We apologize and want you to know that we’re doing everything in our power to make sure this does not happen again.”
Life is all about decisions. This was an example about two big decisions — one good, one bad, which affected the people of our Dallas community. I hope there is a huge bonus given to those brave Home Depot managers and employees who made the call to close their store before the tornado hit. And I hope KXAS implements new emergency alert broadcasting guidelines developed by meteorologists, not producers and marketing executives, to prevent another bad decision in the future.
Decisions can be very hard. But decisions involving the safety of ourselves and others shouldn’t be.