S150 From No-Notice Events to Crying Wolf: How Southeast U.S. Emergency Managers and First Responders Navigate Forecast Uncertainty

Sunday, 7 January 2018
Exhibit Hall 5 (ACC) (Austin, Texas)
Rachael N. Cross, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK; and D. LaDue, S. Ernst, and T. Kloss

Across the U.S. there are vastly different types of terrain and topographic features that vary from state to state or even, in some cases, from county to county. The aim of VORTEX-SE is to assess how location, terrain, and other specific factors unique to southeast U.S. affect the formation of severe convective weather and the dissemination of information among the forecasters, broadcasters, and first responders in that region. As a part of VORTEX-SE, this study focuses on how these unique factors play into the procedures and weather related decisions of first responders and emergency managers (EMs). Specifically, EMs from eleven counties, first responders from two of those counties, and one regional EM in north Alabama were interviewed and observed during weather events in the spring of 2016 and 2017. These groups make various, weather dependent decisions such as canceling schools or deciding whether to prepare and send rescue squads, for which the timing and location of impacts are needed. Because the forecastability of severe weather in the southeast U.S. is often limited, this leaves EMs and other first responder groups to carefully navigate the space between having no prior notice, and thus being unprepared, to preparing for events that do not happen. This study takes a closer look at how the EMs and first responders navigate this forecast uncertainty to make the most effective decisions possible.
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