The Integrated Weather Team: A Potential Collaborative Site of Critical Participation

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Wednesday, 7 January 2015: 9:15 AM
226AB (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Jennifer Henderson, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA

On the heels of several billion-dollar weather disasters, National Weather Service (NWS) forecasters have begun to re-examine their role in community preparedness and response. Within a handful of the 122 forecast offices across the United States meteorologists have initiated a type of local movement to learn more about and build networks within their respective County Warning Areas. It's an endeavor that has the potential to decentralize NWS authority over and responsibility for the weather warning process. Called the Integrated Warning Team (IWT), the concept arose in the 1990s to describe the trio of expert groups most visible within the weather warning process: NWS forecasters, broadcast media, and state/local emergency managers. Recently, the IWT has attempted to include and identify other actors important to creating resilience and knowledge of the sociocultural underpinnings of disasters, people such as first responders, local community agencies, and even social scientists.

Drawing on ethnographic and participatory research, this presentation identifies challenges that continue to plague the warning discourse within the IWT movement, from top-down presentation structures to deficit model assumptions about and issues of trust with “the public.” It also highlights the IWT as a potential site of collaboration by social scientists who might partner with these experts to re-shape awareness and preparedness practices to reflect more critical discourses based in public understanding of science and risk communication literatures.