1.5 Understanding the Role of Confidence, Comfort, and Competence in Weather-Driven Decision-Making by Emergency Managers

Wednesday, 10 June 2015: 2:30 PM
303 (Raleigh Convention Center)
Zachary P. Sefcovic, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC; and B. E. Montz and K. Galluppi

Weather is an important factor in our daily operations. Bright, sunny skies and mild temperatures make choices for work and recreation simple for that day. However, high-impact events can certainly put a strain on a region and can lead to socio-economic problems in improperly prepared areas. The role of the emergency manager influences the decisions that are made and the actions that are taken to mitigate weather impacts in their community. In turn, there are influences on emergency managers that affect the decisions they make.

The Risk Paradigm from a 2009 NRC Report breaks down risk into three categories: risk research, risk assessment, and risk management. In an adaptation of this model, the National Weather Service, TV meteorologists, and other weather authorities serve as the key contributors to the risk research and a majority of the risk assessment components. On the other hand, the emergency manager is the primary “player” in the risk management component of the paradigm. Separating the meteorologists from the local emergency managers within this model are the concepts of risk characterization and risk communication. This is the area where the pertinent weather information gets distributed and filtered from the meteorologists to the emergency manager. This is also the location where the most problems occur in weather-driven decision-making.

In this gap of risk characterization and communication, the emergency manager relies on the confidence of the official forecast and watch, warning, and advisory (WWA) products, the confidence in their ability to sort through the information to reach a decision, their own rationale and competence in the situation at hand, and their comfort in making a decision, based on beliefs and values. Each of these factors influences the responses and decisions each emergency manager makes during a weather event.

This research addresses the influences of confidence, competence, and comfort on emergency managers as they develop their understandings and situational awareness, in order to be able to effectively communicate weather information. This study uses a mixed-methods approach of statistical analysis of on-line iterative surveys of the demographics and training of emergency managers, their definition of confidence, their expectations of timing and messaging of weather products, and their perception of media in influencing decisions. Results will show relationships among location, background, education, training, and experience on decision-making and emergency manager's development and vision of confidence. In addition, factors that influence confidence, comfort, and competence in emergency managers will be revealed. Other questions addressed include the types of information that convey confidence, comfort, and confidence and what can be adjusted in training and messaging to reaffirm confidence, comfort, and confidence in weather-driven decision-making.

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