Zit Seng's Blog

A Singaporean's technology and lifestyle blog

The Health Risk Warnings and Alerts

I’ve been quite confused. Our government recently introduced these alerting mechanisms to warn us about potential exposures to COVID-19 cases. They used two terms, which I suppose someone up there thinks is self-explanatory: Health Risk Warning and Health Risk Alert.

But, I must be at a different level from those fellas. You see, I’m not sure about the differentiation between warning and alert. I thought I knew. I mean, these are simple worlds, right? My problem is that it appears our government seems to designate a more elaborate process surrounding Health Risk Warnings, as opposed to Health Risk Alerts. It is, as if, warning is something much more dangerous than an alert.

Pardon me. As an IT person, i turned to a trusted resource: syslog levels. This is a standard logging system in all UNIX and UNIX-like operating systems. There are lots of log messages of different levels of importance. According to syslog, a warning is just something casual, like there is something amiss that you should probably be aware of, but nothing anywhere near a serious problem.

On the other hand, the syslog level alert is something critical. Something must be done right-away. It is like an emergency, In fact, the alert level is just one below the emergency level!

To be fair, the two words are at best a little ambiguous when trying to compare between them. Maybe, clearer words should have been chosen to describe the Health Risk messages?

How about Health Risk Advisory for the less serious situation, to simply inform people that there is something they should take note of? A Health Risk Notice can also work. Then, the more serious situation can continue to be described as a Health Risk Warning (or Alert). I think, it is quite clear, that an advisory is less serious than a warning.

I wonder if the Multi-Ministry Taskforce would consider this humble suggestion?

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