2.5 Innovative Integration of Social Media During High Impact Weather Events Using the Virtual Operations Support (VOS) Concept: NWS Supplemental Assistance Volunteer Initiative (SAVI)

Thursday, 11 June 2015: 9:45 AM
303 (Raleigh Convention Center)
Morgan Barry, NOAA/NWS, Mobile, AL; and T. Boucher, K. Jones, R. Smith, T. Brice, and C. Pieper

“Work smarter, not harder” is a quote often overheard at National Weather Service (NWS) offices, as well as within the professional weather community. This quote is especially true when it comes to the integration of social media within the NWS. Social media has allowed NWS offices to disseminate and gather information in greater quantities than ever before. In turn, the public has become aware of the strong NWS social media presence. During major weather events, however, public engagement through social media platforms quickly becomes overwhelming to the NWS operational meteorologist.

A clear, consistent message is always important, but it is critical during high impact weather events. This message becomes challenging to maintain during high impact events, where the operational meteorologist can be overwhelmed monitoring multiple social media platforms for weather reports and disseminating crucial weather information. In April 2014, the NWS office in Mobile, Alabama sent over 200 tweets during the historic flash flood event across the northern Gulf Coast. These informational tweets kept the communities informed, answered questions from the public and performed rumor control. However, as the event unfolded, the office quickly became overwhelmed with the volume of weather reports and information on social media. Several NWS offices have experienced similar conditions, where additional support is necessary to monitor social media and crowdsource real-time weather reports.

A Virtual Operations Support Team (VOST) concept tailored to the needs of NWS offices is a feasible solution to this problem. A VOST uses trained volunteers to lend virtual support to meteorologists or emergency managers on-site, whereas the NWS Supplemental Assistance Volunteer Initiative (SAVI) would use operational meteorologists already trained in social media and meteorology to provide virtual support to other NWS offices during high impact events. By leveraging the talents of these already-trained individuals from offices around the country, the workload on the impacted office can be delegated. This virtual support concept is advantageous because it would allow NWS offices to more effectively handle the social media workload during a high impact event. This poster will illustrate the feasibility of integrating the SAVI concept to assist NWS offices in effectively monitoring and sharing consistent weather information during high impact weather events.

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