IAEM, NWS Team up to Provide a Better Understanding of Weather
Hurricane Sandy provides the backdrop for National Weather Service session at the International Association of Emergency Managers conference.
As Hurricane Sandy bore down on the East Coast on Oct. 29, attendees at the 60th annual International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) conference in Orlando, Fla., learned how they, along with the National Weather Service (NWS), can better service the public during severe weather.
IAEM and NWS have converged to create the StormReady program and are working to help make weather forecasting and NWS data more useful to emergency managers. The goal is to build a weather-ready nation, one in which society is prepared for and responds positively to weather-dependent events.
During a breakout session at the conference, Bob Goldhammer, IAEM StormReady liaison with the NWS, said that the two organizations hope to develop better communication that will lead to a better understanding among emergency managers and the public.
“There were too many [weather-related] deaths last year,” Goldhammer said. “It’s an opportunity to be more engaged in the conversation.” He said improved weather information will lead to better decision-making on the part of emergency managers and the public. Weather information is difficult to understand and making it easier to comprehend is a goal of the relationship.
“It’s a science but emergency managers don’t always have the time or knowledge to put the pieces together,” Goldhammer said. “We’re trying to make it easier to give emergency managers an understanding of the weather and give the NWS information to make our needs known.”
Goldhammer said the NWS website was initially developed for meteorologists and is not easily understood by the public. He said that leaves the public relying on non-NWS information and that “everyone is looking at something different.” He said that is something the NWS hopes to change in the future.
“I constantly find new pages on the website,” Goldhammer said. “Some of the information is easy to understand and some of it isn’t. We’re trying to work with the NWS to make the information understandable so people will use it.”
Chris Maier of the NWS acknowledged that “forecasts decrease in value if they’re misunderstood or miscommunicated.” He said a goal of the NWS is to become an “indispensable member of your team if we’re not already.” One benefit to come from the relationship so far has been a NWS reference guide for emergency managers and the general public.
Goldhammer said emergency managers should take it upon themselves to develop a relationship with the person at the local NWS office. In addition, Maier said the NWS is developing emergency response specialists who will work with local emergency managers during weather-related events.