92nd American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting (January 22-26, 2012)

Wednesday, 25 January 2012: 11:00 AM
Weather for Emergency Management: Implications for NWS Tropical Weather Products and Services
Room 353 (New Orleans Convention Center )
Jessica L. Losego, Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC; and K. Galluppi, B. E. Montz, C. F. Smith, and S. S. Schotz
Manuscript (213.3 kB)

Weather is a critical driver of many decisions in emergency management (EM). However, members of the emergency management community often do not know where to find the most pertinent weather information; if they do find it, they might struggle to understand it or translate it to their network of decision makers; and if they understand it, they may not be certain how to take proper actions based upon it. To better comprehend emergency management decision processes and incorporate what is learned into prototype development for the EM community, the Institute for the Environment at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and East Carolina University (ECU) have teamed with National Weather Service (NWS) Headquarters and local offices in a cooperative pilot project. By working with the EM community to understand how they make critical decisions and manage risk, we can learn how improved decision support can be provided by NWS.

The foundation of this project is the incorporation of social science methods to learn about and understand emergency management decision processes across numerous Emergency Support Functions (ESFs), not just from a county emergency manager's perspective. Specifically we focus on learning about the critical decision making processes, EM knowledge, communication content and methods, and information needs and transmission bottlenecks in networks of decision-makers.

The project consists of various use cases; this paper will focus on our tropical weather use case. To learn more about the EM community and their decisions and processes during a tropical weather event, we carried out four iterations: establishing a base case of current practices of the EM community and NWS, testing the EMs' knowledge and use of NWS products, assessing critical knowledge needs through rapid prototyping, and conducting an exercise with EMs to evaluate current and prototyped products and services.

Throughout these iterations, we conducted an extensive number of focus groups, interviews, and surveys with ESFs in coastal North Carolina and selected nearby states. Representatives from the 15 FEMA-established ESFs provided feedback on their critical decisions, processes, weather information needs, and collaborations. Preliminary discoveries revolving around such issues as the ESFs' critical decision timeline and concerns versus what products and services they currently receive from NWS, and the ESFs' perceived use of NWS products versus their actual usage led to multiple issues, actions, and metrics that we explored further to establish findings and recommendations for the NWS. The methods, findings, and recommendations for our tropical weather use case will be presented in this paper.

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