Weather Training For Emergency Managers: A Perspective From The EM Community

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Tuesday, 6 January 2015: 3:45 PM
226AB (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Kenneth Galluppi, Arizona State University, Mesa, AZ; and E. C. Kurtz and B. E. Montz
Manuscript (338.5 kB)

Handout (989.1 kB)

As primary consumers of information produced by the weather community, the emergency management communities are a crucial but often overlooked and taken for granted part of the social safety network. Emergency managers fulfill a variety of roles each having different operational needs that call upon them to be both interpreters of weather information for the public and be decision makers for planning and responding to events that protect life and property. Decisions can range from initiating major hurricane evacuations, closing schools in preparation of ice storms, restoring power and clearing roads after severe weather outbreaks, to putting out house fires ignited by lightning. Managers' ability to understand and make interpretations of weather information that enable correct operational decisions is highly dependent on their training as a critical component of experience. Training is typically provided from the weather community's perspective with little understanding or relevance to emergency management operations. This presentation will overview, from the emergency management point of view, the training needs identified through a series of EM surveys and interviews. It highlights what emergence management relevance means and how to maximize retention and application by focusing on understanding the diversity of operational roles, decisions and perspectives. As part of an ongoing collaboration with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, researchers from Arizona State University, East Carolina State University, and the University of Oklahoma have explored the role of weather training in enabling and influencing emergency mangers' decision-making confidence. The results and conclusions drawn from a series of surveys and interviews, along with a systems thinking approach to separate training relationships from the many influences on decisions, we have captured perspectives on disconnects between current weather training offerings and operational needs as identified by emergency managers. These include issues such as:

1) Training overviews meteorological principles while typically glossing over knowledge and best practices that would be relevant to a wide range of emergency management roles leaving managers to self-learn how to interpret for operational decision making. 2) Hazard specific training is targeted for only a few types of weather events leaving gaps of practical knowledge about other hazards needing to planned for and responded to. Many managers believe that more emergency managers should be trained in weather and the potential diversity of impacts. 3) Training often is overwhelming with meteorological depth and jargon resulting in the perception of low relevance and low retention. 4) Emergency managers believe they are not trained to adequately interpret and combine meteorological products in order to make operational decisions. Subsequently, they may have lower skill or confidence in their ability to interpret and convey weather information to others than could be maintained. 5) Training does not familiarize emergency managers adequately with the specialized language used by weather services decreasing message comprehension and application to decision making. The retention of the jargon is low and is the main complaint of emergency managers. 6) Emergency managers frequently request training for greater depth in meteorology but do so assuming it is the only way to fully comprehend the relevance of information they are provided. Their expressed desire, in contrast, is to have more direct, relevant, and simpler to comprehend information that can be passed along to an array of decision makers in their chain of command. 7) Emergency managers prefer training to be conducted with the partners they will collaborate with during real emergency events as a team building, trust building, and communication channel building experience. 8) There are serious logistical challenges for emergency managers to obtain current training including availability, getting time off, and costs. Suggested preferred modes and content of training will be presented.

These topics among other findings will be presented. The emergency management community has provided important insights that link vital training needs to operational needs. Further, the survey results show that available weather training is not fulfilling these needs. The gaps result in potential misinterpretations and passing along of wrong information, a reduction in confidence in decision making, heavy reliance on self-learning, and lowering of priority to obtain training. Recommendations by emergency managers for improving training will be presented.