7.1 Practices of Anticipation and Response: German Emergency Services Facing Uncertainty in Severe Weather Situations.

Wednesday, 9 January 2019: 10:30 AM
North 226C (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Thomas Kox, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany

Communicating meteorological uncertainty allows earlier provision of information on possible future events and enables the end-user to start earlier with preparatory protective actions based on their own risk assessment. An interview study, conducted with 27 members of German civil protection authorities, shows that scientific developments in weather forecasting do not necessarily fit the current practices of German emergency services. These practices are mostly carried out reactively, rather than based on prognoses or forecasts. The reactive behavior seems to be due to the self-understanding of the organizations as most basic tasks of rescue and firefighting are not predictable per se. The organizations focus on short-term warnings to ensure the preparedness to respond and to support their response measures. When receiving a weather warning, emergency managers cope with uncertainty by collecting, comparing, and blending information about an uncertain event and its outcomes. They struggle most with an increase of emergency calls and missions due to the impacts of severe weather. Because of the additional expenditures, the weather event makes it even harder for them to fulfill their core duties. These findings support the need for impact-based warnings.
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