J2.3 Surveying flood information users: An academic-federal partnership

Wednesday, 9 January 2013: 4:30 PM
Room 19A (Austin Convention Center)
Rachel E. Riley, Univ. of Oklahoma, Norman, OK; and R. Edwards, G. P. Shelton, J. S. Graschel, and J. Johnson

Flooding is a significant cause of death and property damage in the United States. National Weather Service (NWS) River Forecast Centers (RFC) provide flood-related information, including river stage forecasts, that form the basis of NWS river flood warnings. Hydrologic data, forecasts, and warnings are distributed to a variety of users through various media to help lessen the impacts of flooding. The NWS also provides general surveys that look at overall customer satisfaction. However, no systematic study has been undertaken to understand on an event basis who is using hydrologic information, how it is being used, and whether it is effective.

The Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program (SCIPP, a NOAA Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessment program) worked with three RFCs in the southern United States to learn about how emergency managers, public safety officials, and related decision makers use flood information. SCIPP piloted an online survey during two periods: October 2011 (n = 13) and February-April 2012 (n = 70). Results were compiled and the survey was revised following each pilot test. Almost all of the respondents (n = 61; 96.8%) used NWS flood information. Most of the respondents (n = 47; 85.5%) said they had enough information to make good decisions, and majorities agreed or strongly agreed that the floods that impacted them were predicted (n = 47; 75.8%) and forecasted with certainty (n = 38; 61.3%). Flood information sources were generally cited as being very helpful or somewhat helpful, and only a few respondents cited having problems with the information sources.

This project highlights the value of a partnership between three NWS RFCs and a university-based research team to understand and improve the effectiveness of NWS communication with its customers. The NWS RFC partners will be submitting the tested and finalized survey to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for approval. The OMB approval process is required in order for the survey to be compliant with the Government Paperwork Reduction Act, which regulates how Federal agencies can contact and survey customers of government information. With OMB approval, the NWS will be able to use this survey on an ad-hoc basis before, during, and after specific flood events so that a comprehensive study of the effectiveness of NWS hydrologic information can be completed in the future.

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