Night ops

Monday, September 26, 2005

Why should you discount "first reports?"

It's a common bit of military wisdom that "first reports are often wrong."

Why?

Because things get exaggerated in minds of the first people on a dramatic scene and sudden rumors or words misunderstood lead to confusion (face it, if you are getting shot at, you tend to feel the whole world is shooting at you even if it's just a minor skirmish). It sometimes takes cooler heads to sort out the real from the reported. Which is why an experienced military leader will help train his people in making factual, non-hysterical reports he can rely on, and why pilots often have that really calm sounding voice (the "Chuck Yeager" voice) as things are going bad around them - it's a trained skill in keeping calm and focused.

Remember all those horror tales out of New Orleans? This article is a fine example of what happens when reality catches up with a "first report":
Of those, four died of natural causes, one overdosed and another jumped to his death in an apparent suicide, said Beron, who personally oversaw the turning over of bodies from a Dome freezer, where they lay atop melting bags of ice. State health department officials in charge of body recovery put the official death count at the Dome at 10, but Beron said the other four bodies were found in the street near the Dome, not inside it. Both sources said no one had been killed inside.

At the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, just four bodies were recovered, despites reports of corpses piled inside the building. Only one of the dead appeared to have been slain, said health and law enforcement officials.

That the nation's front-line emergency management believed the body count would resemble that of a bloody battle in a war is but one of scores of examples of myths about the Dome and the Convention Center treated as fact by evacuees, the media and even some of New Orleans' top officials, including the mayor and police superintendent. As the fog of warlike conditions in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath has cleared, the vast majority of reported atrocities committed by evacuees have turned out to be false, or at least unsupported by any evidence, according to key military, law enforcement, medical and civilian officials in positions to know.

"I think 99 percent of it is bulls---," said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Lachney, who played a key role in security and humanitarian work inside the Dome. "Don't get me wrong, bad things happened, but I didn't see any killing and raping and cutting of throats or anything. ... Ninety-nine percent of the people in the Dome were very well-behaved."
Be very cautious in accepting first reports unless you know the source and can trust the source. And the media might want to work on a little training in not passing on rumors and learning a little control.

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