Utilizing Virtual Operations Support Teams (VOST) in the NWS to Enhance Social Media Efficiency During High Impact Weather Events

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Wednesday, 7 January 2015: 1:45 PM
221A-C (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Trevor Boucher, NOAA/NWS, New Braunfels, TX; and K. Jones, R. Smith, and C. Pieper

Virtual Operations Support (VOS) as applied to emergency management and disaster recovery is an effort to make use of new communication technologies and social media tools so that a team of trusted agents (i.e. trained volunteers) can lend virtual support to those on-site who may otherwise be overwhelmed by the volume of data generated during a disaster. There are active emergency management VOS teams (or VOSTs) in a number of states across the country including Colorado, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Washington.

With NWS offices across the country quickly realizing the plethora of useful information available on social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter, many offices have established designated duties, workspaces, and manpower for monitoring and posting on social media. Even still, the volume of weather information on social media during a high impact weather event can be overwhelming for the operational meteorologists. The VOST concept can be adopted and utilized in National Weather Service offices to more efficiently handle the workload associated with monitoring social media channels during a significant weather event.

This presentation will illustrate the feasibility and practicality of establishing VOSTs to aid local NWS warning offices in monitoring and sharing life-saving products and information. With experimental programs already in place in Norman, Oklahoma (OK VOST) and Nashville, Tennessee (#tSpotter program), the VOST concept can be adopted and customized for locales across the country to help accomplish the NWS mission.