The United States used to have the Homeland Security Advisory System, a color-coded terrorism threat scale. It turns out, wizards in America have had something similar since the 1920s, except it keeps an eye on something a bit different – the magical exposure threat level.
This week a bunch of new information was released about the North American wizarding school straight from Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling. It all coincides with the marketing push for Warner Bros. prequel spinoff, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which takes place in the U.S.
The official fan site, Pottermore, just did a feature on this curious mechanical device that warns wizards about impending “No-Maj” exposure. You may recall No-Maj, pronounced “no madge,” as in “no magic,” is the terrible American word for Muggle. I'm still trying to forget. Anyway, this object is located in the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA), the U.S. version of the Ministry of Magic. Pottermore explains:
The little hands swing between levels to indicate the level of threat – green for a low level threat, blue for high, yellow for danger, orange for severe unexplained activity, red for emergency. It counts the number of witch hunts in America, the number of times a witch or wizard has been exposed and the number of times someone has had to Obliviate a No-Maj.
If the magical community is vulnerable to exposure, or a No-Maj is at risk of witnessing magic, then this device will sound the alarm. It”s incredibly helpful to the Aurors in America.
Graphic designer Miraphora Mina, her partner Eduardo Lima, and production designer Stuart Craig designed the look. Lima told Pottermore, “[Craig] wanted it to look like a station clock. We looked at how they show terror alerts in the States, and National Security issues like that, and used their colour scheme.”
Mina explained Rowling's script described it as a “radar-type clock that”s measuring the amount of threat or danger.”
“[Rowling] says the dial is on 'severe unexplained activity,'” Mina continued, “and we came up with the other words on the clock face and the cogs you can see working underneath.” She even noted Colin Farrell's character, Percival Graves, has a miniature version of it on his desk.