Improving Weather and Emergency Management Messaging: The Tulsa Weather Message Experiment

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Monday, 5 January 2015
Kenneth Galluppi, Arizona State University, Mesa, AZ; and S. Piltz, K. Nuckles, B. E. Montz, J. Correia Jr., and R. Riley
Manuscript (2.3 MB)

Handout (7.6 MB)

The success and value of conveying critical knowledge about forecasted weather events and their impacts to the emergency management community for operational decision-making is contingent upon two primary factors, content understanding and available delivery mechanisms. As part of an ongoing collaboration with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, researchers from Arizona State University, East Carolina State University, University of North Carolina, and the University of Oklahoma are exploring dimensions of operational considerations from the perspective of the emergency management. This presentation overviews early findings of a pseudo-operation experiment involving the National Weather Service, government emergency management, and large public venues in Tulsa, Oklahoma to shed light on the value of combined messaging and consistent dissemination across available technologies. The first dimension of message content generation allows for participants with varying roles to collaborate in the creation of a message that explains the hazard forecast, potential localized impacts, and localized actions to be taken by the public at large venues. The second dimension explores the use of available dissemination pathways to reach officials and the public in order to ascertain what venue operators and emergency managers consider more useful and effective. Early results indicate that emergency and safety managers find value in the ability to communicate in a combined manner due to consistency of information, localization to operations, and clearer understanding of the event and actions to be taken by the public. Further, using technologies that can be tailored to a spectrum of social media, mobile apps, and local venue capabilities is powerful and worthy of further consideration.

To conduct this experiment we identified a variety of large public venues that have an official who is in charge of safety actions and getting information to the attending public. These venues include the public schools; a large, outdoor sports arena; an industrial park; a commuter-based university campus; a large retail outlet; a large airport; and both a large and small emergency management operations. Officials from these entities have identified what localized time and location forecast information means for their operational consideration in light of personal understanding of provided weather forecasts and lead-time information. They have defined their needs for clear, concise and consistent information that they can used and passed along with additional information they generate of actions for the public to take. While this study is still in its infancy, participants are thinking beyond the traditional emergency notifications to explore what actionable information the public needs to understand about the weather and what to do to protect them given the venue layout that they may or may not be familiar with.

To explore dissemination capabilities we have employed the use of CommPower's iNOTIFY technology to allow venues the flexibility to define, choose and tailor their message dissemination to Weather Radio-like broadcasts, sirens and public address (PA) systems, use the most popular social media formats, email and text notices, use local display monitors, or computer displays. The purpose of the experiment is to enable emergency managers and venue operators the freedom to explore ideas about what constitutes effective messaging and dissemination. While the Tulsa experiment is being performed on a local basis, Canada is deploying the same iNOTIFY technology nationwide for a similar messaging capability as the NOAA Weather Radio with the added capability of robust localized management that includes live audio broadcasting, TV/radio linkages, phone trees, and other disseminations. It is our intent to monitor how the system is used to see if the same messaging value exists on a larger deployment as seen at a local level.