88th Annual Meeting (20-24 January 2008)

Monday, 21 January 2008: 11:15 AM
Communicating hurricane awareness through distance learning
209 (Ernest N. Morial Convention Center)
Timothy Spangler, UCAR/COMET, Boulder, CO
One of the lessons from the devastating 2005 hurricane season was that it is critical to educate citizens to prepare long before a hurricane occurs, act quickly when told what to do by officials, and be self-sufficient for a time, if necessary. However, that lesson must be continually reinforced, particularly as more people move to the coasts or when a quiet hurricane season makes residents more complacent. In addition, the high turnover in emergency managers and others responsible for public safety requires constant efforts to train new personnel who can then work to educate the public. There is no single way to best educate both emergency professionals and the general public, but distance learning is one technique that has proven successful in reaching large numbers of people.

In 1999, COMET developed a Web-based module, Community Hurricane Preparedness, to give public officials a basic education in hurricane science, hazards, and forecasting. A large part of the module focuses on uncertainty in forecasts and how emergency managers must make decisions in the face of that uncertainty. That module was followed in 2002 with another Web product, Hurricane Strike!, which uses a full range of multimedia elements to engage children in learning about hurricane science and safety. Designed primarily for middle school students and funded by FEMA and the NOAA/NWS, students participate in a week-long virtual visit to the home of the fictional Castillo family who lives in Ft. Walton Beach, Fl. Just as the visit begins, the family learns that a hurricane is predicted, and during the week, the student participates in various activities to learn how hurricanes develop and move and how to prepare for a potential disaster. Both modules can be accessed from COMET's educational Website at http://meted.ucar.edu.

The impact of these modules will be discussed, along with thoughts about how the difficult problem of forecast uncertainty might be addressed to enhance hurricane preparedness by the general public through emergency managers, weather broadcasters, and educational materials distributed to school children and their parents.

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