Edited Version March 8, 2000
EIIP Classroom Online Presentation
Warning Coordination Meteorologist Program Manager
National Weather Service
Amy Sebring, Moderator
EIIP Technical Projects Coordinator
The original unedited transcript of the March 8, 2000 online Virtual Classroom presentation is available on the EIIP Virtual Forum (http://www.emforum.org). The following version of the transcript has been edited for easier reading and comprehension. Typos were corrected, date/time/names attributed by the software to each were deleted but content of discussions, questions, and responses are as stated by each participant. Answers from the presenter to questions by the audience are grouped beneath the appropriate question to facilitate meaning.
Amy Sebring: Welcome to the EIIP Virtual Classroom!
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Background information for today's session may be found at <http://www.emforum.org/vclass/000308.htm>.
Today we are observing Severe Weather Awareness Week in the Virtual Forum. This event is observed across the country during late February or early March. Here is the NWS Severe Weather Awareness page, which contains some information on the impact of severe weather including some of the post-storm assessments for some of the major events since 1994.
These assessments highlight the continuing need to improve the capability to disseminate warnings and instructions to the public, particularly at night. The new StormReady program is designed with that goal. We are pleased to have John Ogren, Warning Coordination Meteorologist Program Manager for the NWS with us today to tell us about it and answer your questions. John should understand the threat on a personal level, because shortly before moving to NWS headquarters, the F4 Wichita/Haysville tornado from the May 3, 1999 outbreak picked up just a block and a half from his home!
Welcome, John, and thank you for being with us today.
John Ogren: Thanks all. To get us started, I will give a brief overview and then some current events.
To help Americans guard against the ravages of severe weather, the National Weather Service has designed StormReady, a program aimed at preparing cities, counties and towns across the nation with the communication and safety tools necessary to save lives and property.
The top goal of StormReady is to prepare communities with an action plan that responds to the threat of all types of severe weather -- from tornadoes to tsunamis. A voluntary program created in 1998 by the National Weather Service's Tulsa, Okla. forecast office, Storm Ready provides clear-cut advice to city leaders and emergency managers and media that would improve their local hazardous weather operations. Once a community meets preparedness criteria, outlined by a partnership between the National Weather Service, and state and local emergency managers, it will be pronounced "StormReady."
Why do we need StormReady?
Every year Americans lose their lives because either they didn't hear or heed the warning.
On Palm Sunday in 1994, The Goshen United Methodist church did not receive the NWS tornado warning; 20 died and 90 were injured.
The 1995 Hurricane Opal NWS Service Assessment revealed "there are large numbers of emergency management officials who have no real-time access to NWS warnings and advisories".
During the May 3rd,1999 Oklahoma/Kansas tornado outbreak, despite large lead times, lives were lost because correct safety precautions were not taken.
StormReady is designed to help eliminate the communication and public education issues associated with disasters.
How does a community become StormReady??
A community or county must:
Establish a 24-hour warning point and emergency operations center
Have multiple methods of receiving severe weather forecasts and warnings
Have multiple methods of alerting the public
Have multiple methods of monitoring the weather
Provide training to spotters, dispatchers and the public
Promote the significance of public readiness through community seminars and,
Develop a formal hazardous weather plan, which includes training severe weather spotters and holding exercises.
An advisory board, comprised of National Weather Service warning coordination meteorologists, and state and local emergency managers, will review applications from municipalities and visit the locations to verify the steps made in the process to become StormReady. After the advisory board approves certification, the community will receive a formal letter, along with Storm Ready signs that can be displayed along its major roadways.
StormReady communities must stay freshly prepared, because the designation is only valid for two years. The advisory board seeks to officially designate 20 communities each year for the next five years as StormReady.
Now for some recent events. Last Thursday, we launched StormReady at a press conference at the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, OK. Stories were covered by CNN, CBS, USA Today, AP, and numerous local media outlets. I also did a short presentation at the NEMA PT&E committee meeting a little over a week ago. Good timing as it turns out. StormReady works great with NEMA/FEMA's Emergency Management Accreditation Program.
In Oklahoma, the state Insurance Commissioner is pushing forward legislation that would reduce homeowners insurance for StormReady communities. Apparently with support from the insurance industry!
Now for the future. Our goal is to recognize 20 StormReady communities per year through 2005. We would like to see StormReady work closely with Project Impact. The programs are different, but they certainly compliment each other.
Finally, our NWS office in Tulsa managed to get the ISO to agree lower community rating points in Oklahoma for StormReady communities in order to lower National Flood Insurance rates. We would like to see it spread nationwide.
For more information about the StormReady program, please visit the following web site: <http://www.nws.noaa.gov/stormready>. I am now ready to take any questions you may have.
Amy Sebring: Thank you for that overview, John. We can get into some more detail in response to questions. Audience, please enter a question mark (?) to indicate you wish to be recognized, go ahead and compose your comment or question, but wait for recognition before hitting the Enter key or clicking on Send. We now invite your questions/comments.
David King: We had a presentation on this at our state conference last month. Do you know if it's now nationwide? I'm in Northeast Wyoming and it's blizzarding today, also.
John Ogren: Yes, it is. Just last Thursday it was approved.
David King: Who are the points of contact with NWS on this?
John Ogren: Myself, at the national level. Your local Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the local level.
Dan Jacobs: Will better insurance rates and ISO ratings be realized in other states?
John Ogren: Dan, that is a good question. I hope to. Does anyone in the audience have a contact?
Amy Sebring: If anyone has contact info, go ahead and pop it in.
David Crews: John, is acquisition and distribution of NOAA Radios with Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME) part of your StormReady Program?
John Ogren: Yes, it is. We want to see a weather radio in every publicly accessed government owned building. Examples are schools, courthouses, city hall, libraries etc.
Michael Zacchera: What would the process be to start a StormReady Program? Are there any pre-packaged "starter kits/check lists, etc"?
John Ogren: The application form is on the StormReady Web site. First, the local NWS office needs to form an advisory board. It is made up of NWS folks as well as emergency managers.
Dan Stowers: Just wanted to clarify. Would outdoor sirens and NOAA SAME Radios be considered to notification methods?
John Ogren: Yes, they would. The criterion is population based, i.e., smaller communities would need fewer resources but all need multiple methods of receiving and redistributing warnings.
Christopher Effgen: One of the things that I am an advocate of is an increased use of the NOAA alert system for increased broadcast of local of civil emergencies. Does this program also promote this objective?
John Ogren: Not specifically. However, we encourage our office to do this with or without StormReady.
Roger Kershaw: I watched a show on TV about tornadoes. One thing they mentioned was that because of prior false alarms, the NWS had balked at warning for that huge tornado that hit Oklahoma City. How does StormReady deal with that issue, and is there the possibility for even more false alarms with it?
John Ogren: No, the purpose of StormReady is to get the most "bang" out of a warning. We want to ensure through emergency management and the media that the warning gets out and the public knows how to react properly when the event happens.
Walt Kelley: John, why did NWS announce this program to the media without first letting the users know what was going. I have been addressing media questions all week without knowing all the details. Then I was asked if we met the criteria to be a StormReady Community - only answer made us look like we don't know what was going on.
John Ogren: I apologize for that. We have been trying to get the word out as much as possible. I have presented at NEMA and IAEM personally. I also know many WCMs in the field have done the same. However, I can't guarantee all have done it.
David Crews: John, does StormReady foster Amateur Radio Volunteers at NWS local sites with a 2 meter net for severe weather operations like you had in Wichita?
John Ogren: Yes. One of the criteria is to have 2-way communication from the EOC and the NWS office.
Walt Kelley: Is there an Internet source we can get all of the program details from so we can coordinate with our WCM?
John Ogren: <http://www.nws.noaa.gov/stormready>.
Robert Smith: Is a written plan above and beyond the Local emergency plan needed?
John Ogren: That's up to the local board. Nationally, we tried to keep the program flexible enough to fit the hazards specific to your area.
Avagene Moore: My own community could be designated as a StormReady community, I believe. My question: How has the word on this effort been disseminated? Through States? Directly to counties? Otherwise?
John Ogren: Yes, yes and yes. Besides myself and the press conference, we have 121 WCM's across the country. We are taking it to all levels of emergency management from FEMA to the locals.
Amy Sebring: John, I don't know if you are the one to ask, but NOAA radio is now doing warnings with synthesized voice? And when are the enhancements expected to the voice?
John Ogren: We are doing a pilot test in 2 stations, one is in Ft. Worth TX and the other I don't remember. We will be using a human concatenated voice.
Libbi RuckerReed: Were the local EMA directors the contacts in counties?
John Ogren: Yes. Again that would have been done by the local office. StormReady can be at county or city level though.
Jim Sells: When you indicate locals does that include cities?
John Ogren: Cities - counties - parishes, however emergency management is set up in your neck of the woods.
Amy Sebring: Do you place emphasis on involving law enforcement in this effort? And have you seen the 9-1-1 center cards that Ft. Collins has developed?
John Ogren: We do because law enforcement is often used to be spotters. We also include dispatchers because in many areas, they are the front lines.
Jim Sells: How about Community Emergency Response Teams? Our are currently trained in the Skywarn program.
John Ogren: Yep. Again, the reason we have the local advisory boards at the forecast office level and include state and local emergency managers is to keep the program flexible enough to make it work nationwide.
Ray Pena: What about the business community? Local decision? And, what are we really saying when we proclaim ourselves "StormReady?"
John Ogren: What StormReady says is, "This community has reached a level of preparedness that the communications are in place that when hazardous weather hits the warning will get to the public and public education is a such a level they will know how to react in the appropriate way." As for businesses, I haven't really given that much thought.
Amy Sebring: John, if you should get more than 20 applicants, will you be able to accommodate them?
John Ogren: Absolutely.
Amy Sebring: Will you be targeting some of the Project Impact communities with further outreach?
John Ogren: Project Impact communities are probably the easiest targets, so, yes.
Dan Jacobs: Will you only be doing 20 communities a year nationally, or 20 statewide, or what is the limit? Will we have to experience a disaster to be accepted? This seems to be the case with the Project Impact communities.
John Ogren: 20 nationally is the goal, but we will do as many as we can. It has nothing to do with you experiencing a disaster. The work is on the EM's end. Unfortunately, we don't have the checkbook that FEMA has.
Cam King: John - has this programme been discussed with Environment Canada at all?
John Ogren: I will be going to Ottawa in May. Also one of the North Dakota WCMs is going to a meeting in Canada soon.
Amy Sebring: Do you anticipate getting the StormReady communities together in a network? That is, have them share their experiences, etc. with each other in some way?
John Ogren: I expect if that happens, it will be on a state level at first. That's a good idea.
Dan Jacobs: Have any communities in Texas been accepted, yet?
John Ogren: Right now, only in OK and AR since it was piloted there. If anyone has questions after this chat my e-mail is <email@example.com> or call me at 301-713-0090x140.
Amy Sebring: Thank you very much for being with us today, John. I hope you will be overwhelmed with applications! Please stand by a moment while we take care of some announcements. Avagene, can you tell us what's on for next week, please?
Avagene Moore: Yes, thank you, Amy. John, thank you for a most informative session today.
Next week, the EIIP Virtual Forum highlights our Second Annual "Spring Break Student Day" on Wednesday, March 15, 12:00 Noon EST!
The International Emergency Management Students Association (IEMSA) is an EIIP Partner; the IEMSA President, Dan Robeson, University of North Texas, will be with us. Several IEMSA members should be online with us.
Dr Wayne Blanchard, FEMA EMI, will also be here to bring us up to date on FEMA's Higher Education Initiative. We have invited emergency management students and key people involved in other EM degree programs around the country to be online for this special event.
We have invited a couple of other folks with interesting input to the question, "How prepared is your college?" After a little serious interactive discussion, we have a little fun activity scheduled as well for students and all EIIP Virtual Forum participants. Beware the Ides of March! Mark your calendar for Student Day on March 15!
That's all for now, Amy.
Amy Sebring: Thank you, Ava. If there are any announcements from the floor, please pop them in now. Thanks to all our participants today. We will adjourn the session for now, but you are invited to remain for open discussion. You no longer need to use question marks.