14 The Role of After Action Reviews during Historic Flash Floods in Death Valley, CA

Monday, 7 November 2016
Broadway Rooms (Hilton Portland )
Chris Outler, NWS, Las Vegas, NV; and S. Czyzyk

The National Weather Service (NWS) in Las Vegas established an internal system of documenting and reviewing storm events (after action reviews) during the fall of 2015. This new review system analyzes office performance in a variety of facets including staffing levels, social media engagement, forecast and warning decision making, effective messaging and decision support services. The after action review system includes an anonymous feedback process that has produced a high level of employee engagement.

One such after action review was conducted between two significant flood events in the Death Valley National Park in October of 2015. The feedback received allowed NWS Las Vegas staff to quickly modify their operational approach to flash flooding events. The result was a much more favorable staffing profile, better forecasting decisions, and improved messaging of the potential for major impacts ahead of a second round of flooding rains. This second round devastated Scotty’s Castle, a historic site on the north side of Death Valley National Park, as floodwaters severely damaged the entire property. This resulted in the closure of the site until at least 2018.   Changes made thanks to the after action review process undoubtedly aided in awareness of hazardous weather, as well as the protection of lives and property.

The NWS Las Vegas internal review process continues to be an integral part of operations and encourages staff to remain proactive with staffing decisions while also fostering research opportunities, and constantly evaluating the most effective methods of messaging hazardous weather.

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