2.6 Utilizing Virtual Operations Support Teams (VOST) in the NWS to Enhance Social Media Efficiency During High Impact Weather Events

Thursday, 11 June 2015: 9:30 AM
303 (Raleigh Convention Center)
Trevor Boucher, NOAA/NWS, New Braunfels, TX; and R. Smith, K. Jones, C. Pieper, M. Barry, and T. Brice

During a major disaster, first responders, emergency management officials, and disaster recovery personnel are faced with a highly complex, and rapidly changing situation. Nothing is more important to those making critical, life-saving decisions than accurate information during the event. However, that information can become overwhelming. Virtual Operations Support (VOS) is an effort to make use of new communication technologies and tools enabling trained volunteers to lend virtual support to those on-site who may otherwise be overwhelmed by the volume of information generated during a disaster. There are active emergency management VOS teams (or VOSTs) in a number of states across the country including Colorado, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Washington.

With NWS offices across the country realizing the plethora of useful information available on social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter, many offices have established designated duties, workspaces, and manpower for monitoring and posting on social media. Even still, the volume of weather information on social media during a high impact weather event can be overwhelming for the operational meteorologists. The VOST concept can be adopted and utilized in National Weather Service offices to more efficiently handle workload associated with monitoring social media channels during a significant weather event.

This presentation will demonstrate the feasibility and practicality of establishing VOSTs to aid local NWS warning offices in monitoring and sharing life-saving products and information. With experimental programs already in place in Norman, Oklahoma (OK VOST) and Nashville, Tennessee (#tSpotter program), the VOST concept can be adopted and customized for locales across the country to help accomplish the NWS mission.

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