Apparently, scientists are working overtime to enhance common colors that you and I are already familiar with.
That's how it seems, anyway, because The Homeland Security Advisory System has had some interesting twists to it due to the threats against the New York City subway system this weekend.
Now, in general, I don't have any problem with the Homeland Security Advisory System, despite many people's complaints. Let's face it — many people just don't read, listen to, or watch the news regularly, and I like the idea of a simple system for telling everyone if something is or might be going on. (In fact, this site perpetually displays the HSAS threat level in Muppet form. Just take a look at the sidebar.) More importantly, it lets the appropriate agencies know when to really buckle down and make sure they don't miss anything crucial.
Now that's not to say I don't have any problems with the system. Why in the world do we have a green level on there? We all know that no one with half a mind will use that threat level! Who's going to lower the advisory to the "Low" setting of Green? You just know that if we get attacked and the setting is Green, whoever is responsible for that is utterly screwed. So, we are currently on Yellow alert, right? Right . . . unless you're in New York City, where the status has been Orange all along. And unless you were using mass transit three months ago, when there was a raised status for mass transit only.
These, as odd as they are, are perfectly understandable. I have no issue swallowing these discrepancies, but let me mention the latest color change. Suppose a threat is made on New York's subway system, and you are riding San Francisco's BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit). What would you suppose the threat level would be? Yellow? Nope. Orange? Nope. Try this on for size:
"Enhanced Orange" That's right . . . it's certainly not Red, but it's more than Orange. It must be Enhanced Orange. BART spokesman Lynton Johnson was quoted as saying that this was not taken because of any specific threat to BART or even to San Francisco! I don't know about you, but in my book, that makes for Enhanced Yellow, at best. I guess that wasn't an option, because BART has been on Orange since the London subway bombings. Perhaps they should have gone with Enhanced Yellow back then, and then they could have bumped up to Orange now.
Bumping up your threat level because of a specific threat to a city 3,000 miles away? Maybe San Francisco just feels like they have been left out of the spotlight for a bit too long. Who knows?
I know there are only five levels because they didn't want to be changing it all the time, but when you take into account that no one is going to use the lowest one, and we seem to have been avoiding Blue as well, that leaves us with only three. Of course, Red is also observed for the "something is actually happening right now or has just happened, so start panicing" situations, which leaves us with two functional threat levels. With two functional threat levels, it's no wonder we have already started splitting these two colors up. Nonetheless, I would prefer the use of "Red-Orange" to "Enhanced Orange," since that's technically the correct term for the method. Honestly, I don't like Red-Orange, either because then you hear Red and start panicing before you even get to the "-Orange" part. I'm sure artistic folks could come up with a color that fits, though. Maybe "Tomato Soup."
Of course, I just want to hear Stone Phillips say "The terror alert level for San Francisco's BART has been raised to Tomato Soup today."