8.6 NWS Integrated Team Models of Community Engagement

Wednesday, 10 January 2018: 2:45 PM
Ballroom E (ACC) (Austin, Texas)
Bethany Perry, NOAA Central Region Collaboration Team, Kansas City, MO

NWS Weather Forecast Offices (WFOs) utilize a variety of tools and techniques to support their community and provide tailored and integrated decision support services. One such strategy is through integrated models of community engagement. The most prevalent model is the Integrated Warning Team (IWT). The IWT philosophy was born out of the desire to bring together those in a defined community involved in the “weather warning” process. Initial IWTs included National Weather Service (NWS) local office staff, broadcast (radio and TV) media, and emergency management. IWTs have grown to also include the private sector, government officials and representatives (State, Tribal and local), non-profit organizations, school districts, hospitals, and many more. All of these groups share a similar desire to receive and utilize accurate and timely weather information for critical decisions impacting public safety and well-being. In order to meet this need, IWT Workshops are often designed to provide an opportunity to work with partners to understand how each group functions, what expectations they have of each other, and what they need from others in the “Team” to succeed. A wide variety of other workshop topics are utilized by local offices, originating from their needs and objectives. Often times social scientists and other guest speakers will participate, providing learning opportunities for the workshop participants. A primary goal of these initial workshops is to create a strong foundation on which to build an integrated team.

For many local forecast offices, this is not a new idea, but rather a way of doing business. Each local office approaches IWTs in the way that best suites their needs. Some offices employ a model of integration that isn't called an "IWT" and others have a model called an IWT that significantly differs from common characteristics of other offices. Some utilize existing organizations or networks to meet their objectives, while others create the group. Some organize their IWT by office and others involve neighboring WFOs. Some offices focus on one specific hazard, while others focus on a variety of hazards. IWTs can also differ in the abbreviation. "W" stands for "Warning" in many cases, but in others "Weather" is the preferred term. There are numerous examples of IWTs and unique attributes but one factor is common among them all - they are initiated by a local office and tailored to the specific needs and opportunities in a community.

Since there is an incredible amount of diversity in models of community engagement, it is safe to assume there are a number of resources and expertise available to allow offices to benefit from information collected and made readily available for the creation, expansion, or continuation of IWTs. An effort led by NOAA's Central Region Collaboration Team (CRT) seeks to address this opportunity, while continuing to recognize the necessity of local development of integrated team efforts and sharing key characteristics of the success of ongoing efforts. The number and impact of IWTs (or similar efforts) underway throughout the NWS was previously unknown. In 2017 the CRT conducted a survey of all NWS WFOs to create an inventory and collect details on IWT efforts. An inventory and assessment of IWT initiatives connects multiple NWS priorities, including integration of social science, consistency improvements and Impact-Based Decision Support. Results could include: identification of key IWT Workshop components; review of existing IWT related training modules; collection of best practices, challenges, pitfalls, and guidance; templates for IWT Workshop materials and development of a knowledge and resources toolkit; creation of an informal network of IWT advocates, contributors, and interested social scientists.

With the passing of the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017, as well as recommendations from the 2016 Northeast Blizzard Service Assessment and the Historic South Carolina Floods of October 1-5, 2015 Service Assessment, there is an immediate need to better understand IWTs - the extent, impact, and valuable resources that can inform and advance the initiative in WFOs across the country. In addition to the inventory, the CRT will also develop a recommendation to sort and make available the information in a user friendly format. Additionally, findings could be used to support follow-on research and leverage opportunities to more closely study the impact that IWTs have in communities in preparation, response, and recovery from extreme events.

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