What Meteorologists Should Know About Disaster Response and Recovery

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Wednesday, 5 February 2014: 9:45 AM
Room C107 (The Georgia World Congress Center )
John T. Ferree, NOAA/NWS, Norman, OK; and E. Jacks

Meteorologists are often involved in disaster preparedness activities, and are typically the creator and communicator of warnings on hazardous weather events. Not often considered is the important role that meteorologists can play in response and recovery activities. They have an early understanding of the scope of a weather disaster, and that can translate into an early understanding of societal needs of the impacted communities. For example, mapping of the potentially impacted area in the moments following a tornado can be of critical importance to first responders and community leaders assessing damage to key infrastructure. Meteorologists are often followed on social media by large segments of the population through an event, and they can greatly assist authorities in providing critical recovery information in the immediate aftermath of a weather disaster. Involvement in emergency response and recovery can also help build relationships with local disaster agencies. Meteorologists participating in recovery gain valuable insight into how to better assist local emergency managers with response plans for schools, public buildings, businesses, places of worship, and homes of friends and families.

On May 20th, 2013 an EF5 tornado destroyed southern sections of Moore, Oklahoma. This tornado damaged the homes of friends and families of meteorologists that work in Norman, Oklahoma, and was within a few miles of the homes of dozens of meteorologists. In the immediate aftermath of the tornado, many of these meteorologists participated in disaster relief activities, including assisting with coordinating volunteers in clean-up activities, and organizing and warehousing large volumes of donated goods.

FEMA, American Red Cross, and others provide numerous free resources on post-disaster recovery. A common statement by those meteorologists that participated in response and recovery activities for the May 2013 Oklahoma tornadoes is that they should have been more familiar with post-disaster resources. During a weather disaster, volunteers are always appreciated, but those with an understanding of response and recovery are invaluable.