1.4 Building a WeatherReady Nation - An Integrated Warning Team (IWT) Concept

Thursday, 10 January 2013: 9:15 AM
Ballroom E (Austin Convention Center)
Charlie Woodrum, NOAA/NWS, Pittsburgh, PA; and F. M. McMullen, A. Smith, and C. M. Kauffman

The roots of developing a WeatherReady Nation (WRN) in Pittsburgh began with the Weather Forecast Office (WFO) developing an External Users Team in 2010 to better understand the effect that its services have on its users. The team meets bimonthly via conference call and once a year in person at a newly devised Integrated Warning Team (IWT) Workshop. Members of the IWT are comprised of: 1) local media, 2) emergency management, 3) transportation services, 4) utility companies, 5) health services, and 6) education communities. By building closer relationships with its members, the WFO has been able to better develop an understanding of their unique needs while determining areas where WFO products and services can be improved. Through the WeatherReady Nation concept, attendees at IWT workshops have an opportunity to be apprised of National Weather Service (NWS) initiatives and how they can be applied locally to their specific endeavor. The annual workshop fosters an opportunity for core partners of the NWS to further understand the WeatherReady Nation (WRN) initiative and apply it at their local level. At the initial Pittsburgh IWT in September of 2011, IWT members discussed how weather impacts their operations and their relationship with the WFO. Not only did the WFO learn valuable weather thresholds for action within the transportation, energy, and medical communities, team members became aware of the similarities and differences between their organizations. The WFO was then able to use these thresholds to better alert organizations within decision support packages and outlooks, especially with regard to winter weather and high wind events. As part of a subpanel, various members of the media from 3 different states brainstormed ways in which the WFO could help them disseminate products to increase public comprehension, and how the stations could standardize the use of colors for watches and warnings. In addition, a discussion of local societal impacts from recent weather events locally and nationally ensued. Team breakout sessions at the end of the workshop promoted further inter-organizational discussions on lessons learned and action items for future workshops. As the initial IWT was so productive, a second IWT followed in 2012 co-hosted by the WFO-Pittsburgh and the California University of Pennsylvania. A key discussion topic at this workshop was partner interpretation of NWS flood-related products and services. The IWT brainstormed ways to more effectively communicate the differences in NWS flood watch and warning products to partners. This effort was aimed at increasing awareness and understanding of flood products and associated flood hazards., Core partners in the media, emergency management, education, and transportation communities led panels in order to help the IWT augment their understanding of how weather hazards impact their day-to-day operations. In order to address the national goals of a WRN, the WFO-Pittsburgh is attempting to utilize the IWT to foster and strengthen relationships with its core partners. The IWT plans to continue to gather practical insight on the societal impacts of the NWS products and services so the information can be applied at the local WFO, regional IWT, and the national level. Some detailed preliminary results and outcomes from two successful IWT workshops (2011-2012) are presented in this paper.
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