1.1 Its the Relationship, Not the Weather

Monday, 8 January 2018: 8:45 AM
Room 5ABC (ACC) (Austin, Texas)
Rebecca Moulton, FEMA, Washington

Major weather events are always major newsmakers ahead of a storm, especially major hurricanes. It is during these times meteorologists increasingly find ourselves in the spotlight or “hot seat”, depending on our perspective.

We may be asked to fill the role of subject matter expert (regardless of background, training or experience), media spokesperson, briefer to an audience consisting of anywhere from a handful, to hundreds of senior level elected officials, responsible for everything from local events to multi-million dollar response operations, or providing analysis in the media. Add to that, the proliferation of new technology allows more platforms for analysis of these events, and a more personalized approach convey the information. The speed at which this occurs is usually faster than the next update from the National Hurricane Center. All of this can create a dizzying environment where the line between “hype” and prudent planning begins to blur, and it the meaning of “effective decision making” begins to blur.

Over numerous major weather disasters of a variety of scales and scope, it is increasingly clear that more users of weather information during these significant events are looking at information above and beyond what may be perceived as a perfect forecast. Increasingly, “trust” emerges as a key component for the most compelling information – how the meteorological details intersect preparation timelines, how quickly information can be exchanged between partners, and whether that information is considered credible and acted on. In some events, building trust proves fundamental to getting, or “earning” the attention of users who may already be saturated with too much information, and keeping their attention may be predicated on conveying only the most critical piece of information in the fastest way possible.

This discussion will include several real world scenarios of best practices, examples of how emergency managers were able to leverage and apply meteorological support to decisions, and offers several ideas about what constitutes “decision support” and effective communication. As stated earlier, it may all depend on your perspective.

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