11.4 Empowering NWS Partners to be Weather-Ready for Outdoor Events. Part I: Preseason Planning and Training

Thursday, 16 January 2020: 12:00 AM
153C (Boston Convention and Exhibition Center)
Michael Bardou, NWS, Romeoville, IL; and E. Lenning

In areas of the country prone to convection, thunderstorms are one of the primary hazards for any outdoor event and especially for those with large crowds and limited sheltering capacity. It therefore is essential for thunderstorms and their associated threats to be included among the concerns that officials must account for when planning for the safety of event-goers. For example, is adequate space available to provide protection from lightning? Or how long will it take to evacuate the venue if there is no safe place to shelter? Planning turns to monitoring as the event ramps up and it becomes more clear which weather hazards may actually impact the event. How can decision makers keep up with the latest forecast information? Monitoring turns to decision making as the weather hazards become reality and the safety of hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of people is now at stake.

For a local National Weather Service (NWS) office, opportunities abound to work with local government partners during these planning, monitoring and decision making phases. This is especially true in large metropolitan areas where public officials may be responsible for the safety of dozens of outdoor events at any given time. However, these increasing demands for partner interaction can present challenges to local NWS offices, especially those with a very large population to support. To address these challenges, NWS Chicago has collaborated with emergency management partners and other NWS offices serving Illinois and Indiana over the past three and a half years to promote the Event Ready concept. This is a streamlined process which expands NWS support beyond real time weather to arm decision makers with knowledge, skills, and tools they can incorporate in all phases of their planning and decision making. The goal is to ensure their readiness for weather-related threats, from planning to monitoring to decision making.

This presentation will explain how Event Ready tools help users develop their hazardous weather plans, understand key real-time services available from the NWS, strengthen their weather assessment skills, and more effectively communicate with the local WFO. This is accomplished through a variety of methods including written guides, online videos, and situational awareness tools driven by specific partner thresholds. A tabletop exercise designed by the WFO then exposes partners to these tools and helps them and their peers apply them to a realistic scenario. This also helps them build comfort in accessing weather information and communicating with local WFO staff. Finally, lessons learned and information gaps that have been identified through this collaborative effort will be discussed. Part 2 will take a closer look at these lessons learned and explore how the Chicago office has evolved its forecast operations to provide the enhanced support expected by its partners after their familiarization with the Event Ready process.

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