7.6 Moving toward Hazard Simplification (#HazSimp): The Strengths and Weaknesses of the NWS Warning System from an NWS Internal Perspective

Wednesday, 13 January 2016: 11:45 AM
Room 333-334 ( New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center)
Gina M. Eosco, Eastern Reseach Group, Arlington, VA; and L. Girardi, S. Shrestha, E. Jacks, J. Sprague, A. Horvitz, and M. Bilder

Understanding of the watch, warning, advisory (WWA) system is complex with a wide range of comprehension. The potential “fixes” for those who misunderstand the WWA system are also vast. Colors, numbers, icons, warning language, and visual structure of the information can all impact how people process warning information. Although there is social science literature on each of these individual pieces, there is no literature that strongly indicates a particular direction for a redesign. Much of warning design, and largely the design field all together, happens in a participatory, transactional process.

Increasing the complexity is that the Hazard Simplification (HazSimp) projects sits within many systems. The aim is effective risk communication that empowers the individual to understand their risk and respond as appropriate. But, within this paradigm is a system of operational forecasting, and even further, a computing infrastructure that may not easily adapt to change. People and “things,” such as infrastructure, often interact in what the literature calls, “Participatory design.” As background, participatory design embodies the idea that the users of a particular thing, in this case, the NWS watch, warning, advisory system, should have a say in the design process (Bjögvinsson, Ehn, & Hillgren, 2012; Bødker & Iverson, 2002), which at this juncture could include minor changes to the WWA system or an entire redesign. In this spirit, then, the HazSimp team must ensure the full participation of NWS operational forecasters, as well as the external community, including NWS partners, and where appropriate the American public. Given that this is a process, it takes time and many iterations to ensure all of these key stakeholders are involved at all stages of the project.

As an initial step, the HazSimp team developed an open-ended case study survey designed to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the current WWA system. This presentation will cover the results from the NWS internal survey distributed to all NWS employees. Some questions included:

• Describe a hazardous weather event or general experience • Explain how the WWA system was effective in your case study. • Explain how the WWA system was ineffective or limiting in your case study. • Describe how to resolve the challenges and limitations you outlined. • Describe any features we should maintain about WWA. • Explain any outside factors that influence the success/failure of your case study.

In total 88 case studies were collected, and then qualitatively coded following a grounded theory coding practice (see Charmaz, 2006, Chapter 3). The coding process as well as initial results and findings will be discussed.

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