Second Special Session on Heat Health


How Does the National Weather Service Interact with Stakeholders? Outreach from the Perspective of a Warning Coordination Meteorologist

Henry E. (Ted) Buehner, NOAA/NWS, Seattle, WA

The new National Weather Service (NWS) Heat/Health System has been implemented in a total of 16 cities with a half million population or greater in each across the United States beginning with Philadelphia in 1995. Each location where the new system has been put in place has involved an extensive and ongoing outreach effort to help initiate and maintain the system.

This session segment will illustrate the challenges and lessons learned as NWS Seattle spun up the new program and now maintains community awareness and preparedness. The first hurdle was convincing the community as a whole that heat was a serious health issue in the Seattle area. Since heat is not a hazard one can see like a tornado, flood or winter storm, people did not see heat as a threat to life, particularly in such a moderate climate in the Pacific Northwest. Yet, study results showed heat as the number one weather-related killer in the Seattle area, mirroring such statistics nationwide. Even many of those in the health and emergency management community did not immediately see heat as a serious health threat.

NWS products involved with the heat/health system include excessive heat watches, warnings and advisories. Outreach efforts included the manner in which the community receives these NWS warning products. These warning products are disseminated via newswires, state law enforcement communication systems, the Internet, etc. So, many in the press, the emergency management and other agencies received these new heat products just like other NWS warning messages. Yet, the health community was not a part of this existing disseminating system and needed to be integrated.

Outreach included an initial, and now ongoing, community education effort. This session concludes by addressing initial education efforts to help spin up the community, including the health community, emergency management, the press and others who help reach the community. This process is further challenged, given the frequent turnover in the community as a whole. Hot weather during the summer of 2005 helped reinforce the need for heat awareness and preparedness.


Session 2, System Implementation and Intervention Activities to Lessen Heat/Health Problems
Monday, 30 January 2006, 10:45 AM-12:15 PM, A310

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