1.9 OK-FIRST: An Innovative Information-Support System for Public-Safety Agencies

Monday, 10 January 2000: 1:30 PM
Dale A. Morris, Oklahoma Climatological Survey, Univ. of Oklahoma, Norman, OK; and K. C. Crawford, H. L. Johnson, R. A. McPherson, M. A. Shafer, and J. M. Wolfinbarger

Since 1996, the Oklahoma Climatological Survey (OCS) has been engaged in a program to share weather information with public safety agencies, to train public-safety officials in the acquisition and use of the data, and to provide follow-up support. Known as OK-FIRST, this program has over eighty participants from across Oklahoma, including a majority of users from rural areas. These officials routinely apply environmental data including real-time WSR-88D data from 15 NEXRAD sites, data from the Oklahoma Mesonetwork, and information from the National Weather Service to a wide host of weather-impacted situations.

As a result of the OK-FIRST project, applications of real-time, local, and detailed weather information by program participants have been varied and wide-ranging. Besides the obvious benefits of better deployment of storm spotters during severe weather, project participants have become proactive and pre-deploy precious resources (e.g., firemen are pre-alerted to wind shifts, roads and bridges are closed before flooding occurs, ambulances diverted around tornadic thunderstorms). Other applications of the OK-FIRST information resource include investigations of homicides and airplane crashes, and better management of public-works activities such as paving and painting roads and bridges.

In support of a primary goal to restore public confidence in government, the Ford Foundation, the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and the Council for Excellence in Government have established a prestigious awards program. Known as Innovations in American Government, their program recognizes innovative programs which are examples of “government’s capacity to address and develop creative solutions to critical societal problems.” This manuscript will document the facets of the OK-FIRST program and the resulting applications which the Innovations Program has recognized as being truly innovative.

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