Building a Weather Support Partnership between the National Weather Service Southern Region and the Federal Emergency Management Agency Region IV

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Monday, 3 February 2014
Hall C3 (The Georgia World Congress Center )
Kurt M. Van Speybroeck, NOAA/NWS, Fort Worth, TX; and B. Hoeth, B. Bolinski, and R. Jennings

One of the goals of the NWS Weather-Ready Nation strategic plan is to improve weather decision support services for events that threaten lives and livelihoods. This can be accomplished by engaging with weather information users and partners to improve our knowledge of their operational needs and better understand how they incorporate weather information into their decision making and risk management activities.

The NWS Southern Region Headquarter Regional Operations Center (SRH-ROC) was initially staffed by meteorologists and hydrologists on temporary monthly rotations, who established working relationships with FEMA Region VI in Denton, TX and the Texas State Operations Center in Austin, TX. In September 2011, the SRH-ROC became one of six pilot projects, staffed by a group of emergency response specialists to test the concept of developing integrated regional-scale situational awareness and communication capabilities to provide mission critical decision support services.

Given that nearly 90% of all Presidential Disaster Declarations are weather related and are associated with nearly 500 fatalities and $14 billion in damages annually, FEMA's mission is closely aligned with the purpose and vision of the NWS. Weather and related hazards are a focus for all programs within FEMA including planning, operations, response, and mitigation/recovery. Thus, a strong partnership between FEMA and the NWS helps both agencies fulfill their mutually shared mission to serve the public, and leverage resources and expertise to most effectively prepare for, and recover from, weather related disasters.

The initial partnerships with FEMA Region VI and the State of Texas formed the underlying ideas for expanding partnerships with additional state and federal agencies. One of these key new partners is FEMA Region IV in Atlanta, GA. Using the knowledge gained from past practices during critical weather events, a baseline of weather intelligence and decision support services was proposed to FEMA Region IV leadership. Once the baseline was established the FEMA Region IV personnel began to increasingly use the SRH-ROC's daily weather products, and to request specific data and forecasts tailored to their mission requirements.

The NWS Southern Region Operations Center pilot project has demonstrated the capability to provide improved decision support services for those NWS partners operating on the region scale. Several examples of critical weather support will be described in this presentation, including examples of support during initial surge, critical operations, response, recovery and debriefing. In particular, the FEMA and NWS roles during Hurricanes Isaac (2012) and Sandy (2012) will be discussed.