3A.6 Messaging Public Safety Instruction within Tornado Warnings Issued during Hurricane Watch/Warning Situations

Monday, 8 January 2018: 3:30 PM
Ballroom F (ACC) (Austin, Texas)
David W. Sharp, NOAA/NWS, Melbourne, FL; and V. Brown, L. Myers, and D. Arnold

Hurricanes are multi-hazard events which recurringly bring considerable impacts to United States coastal communities along the Atlantic Seaboard and Gulf of Mexico. During hurricane watch and warning situations, alerting information greatly increases and associated public safety messaging becomes voluminous. Concerns for life and property are typically focused on protecting against high wind, storm surge, and flooding rain. Local calls-to-action emanate from the National Weather Service and emergency management partnership, with added emphasis provided by media partners. As attentions and resources are committed to preparing for the looming tropical event, anxiety levels rise making it more difficult for individuals to mentally process the growing amount of emergency information. To complicate matters, tornadoes occasionally become part of the hazard mix. Whenever tornado warnings are issued in the midst of hurricane preparedness and evacuation activities, alerts may not be (cognitively) received or are simply ignored, and public safety instruction may conflict with other instruction relative to the overarching hurricane emergency. The problem is exacerbated if tornado warning issuance is periodically frequent and the false alarm rate overly high. Consequently, tornado warnings issued within coincident hurricane watches or warnings often do not evoke the desired public response that they might otherwise do during tornado-only events. This artifact can be experienced during the evacuation/preparedness phase, in-shelter phase, or initial response phase of the larger hurricane event.

This presentation discusses the stated communications problem and examines respective aspects from the social science perspective. Initial qualitative results are presented from focus group and survey interactions among the National Weather Service partnership within East Central Florida, and from the local public. Community hurricane emergency plans are also scrutinized for realistic tornado contingencies, while default calls-to-action for tornadoes, as contained within National Weather Service warning creation software, are challenged for appropriateness in hurricane situations. In so doing, considerations are given to both tropical cyclone intensity and (local) event phase in the presence of an evolving tornado threat. Recommendations are offered to harmonize public safety instruction within tornado warnings when issued during hurricanes. A proposed means for operational transition to other coastal weather forecast offices is outlined.

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