Posts Tagged ‘severe weather


Use your people

Virginia Emergency Operations Center

Image by VaDOT via Flickr

I have noticed that EOC’s and emergency managers are always asking for money and anyone who reads the comments sections of online news articles can see that the public always thinks it’s unnecessary.  I completely understand.  You buy these beautiful, technoligically advanced, and outrageously expensive rooms to be used a few times a year (if your lucky, or unlucky depending on your point of view).  I think it’s time we evaluate the use of emergency managers and emergency management agencies.  Preparation is key but we have shrinking budgets and agencies are losing their best people to retirement out of fear of not having the option.  I think that EOC’s and emergency manager should get more active.  Respond to calls that aren’t normally part of your scope but require multi-agency response.  Firefighters, police, and EMS become better at what they do because they are active.  An agency that activates a couple times a year is not going to have their stuff together when the big one hits.  I am always amazed at the requirements to activate an EOC when looking at emergency operations plans.  Some places require the town to essentially be wiped off the face of the earth before it’s a situation that warrants an EOC/EM activation.  As a volunteer who is always looking for a chance to participate in an activation, I find that there are many situations that would have been helped by an EOC activation but the EOC sits dormant.  All the fancy equipment laid out with nothing to do.  Just my opinion though, perhaps I am just bored and looking for some excitement (I don’t wish anything bad on anyone, I really don’t).


It doesn’t happen here…

Springfield Tornado - 06012011 - 026

Image by Robert Blackie via Flickr

It can’t, it won’t, it hasn’t, it doesn’t.  These are fatal assumptions when associated with words like severe weather or earthquakes or flooding.  I would venture to guess that within the large tally of injured and killed people during this springs severe weather, many believed these statements.  It could be they grew up in areas that experience regular severe weather and nothing has ever happened before or because they grew up in areas that generally don’t have severe weather.  This is the mindset of the vast majority of our population.  Many don’t believe it will happen to them.

Here’s the problem though, it can, it will, it has, and it does happen.  Weather, earthquakes, technological hazards, and all the other dangers of the world can happen anywhere at any time.  I read an article yesterday in the local paper that stated how lucky we are because we don’t get any of the bad things in the world where we live.  I proceded to spit my coffee all over the table and then had to re-read it to be sure that this paper just told all of it’s readers that it’s cool cause it ain’t gonna happen here…unbelievable.  Need an example?  Springfield, Massachusetts.  It’s in New England, nestled in western mass in an area that doesn’t typically get a lot of significant severe weather.  Well much to the surprise of many, it was hit with a very large and destructive tornado, possibly in the EF-3 to EF-4 range.  This system then moved across the state leaving millions of dollars in damage and multiple fatalities and injuries.

As a community, emergency managers need to stress the fact that these events can and will happen anywhere they please.  Emergency management as a profession/volunteer position exists in a realm of confusion and lack of definition.  The average citizen doesn’t really know what it does and therefore has no problem cutting money from these agencies that don’t seem to do anything.  Obviously this is not the case but we need to justify the existance of emergency management.  We need to explain that preparedness saves lives, that those expensive warning systems can pay for themselves in an instant when they are needed, that after the dust has settled we can see the true cost of preparing your community for the events that will never happen, aren’t possible, and in an instant, can wipe you off the face of the earth.



This is has happened to me so many times!


Weather and Radar

A NWS composite radar image of the Continental...

Image via Wikipedia

It still amazes me how emergency management hasn’t created training programs related to severe weather.  There are skywarn programs and NWS training but generally they are directed more toward the public are not really all that advanced.  You can’t really blame anyone for this but as an emergency manager or even a firefighter/emt/cop you should be monitoring weather conditions and understand the basic of meteorology.  Weather is the cause of most declared disasters yet there is little available weather training specifically for first responders.

If you happen to be a proactive responder than you have probably considered getting some software to monitor weather conditions.  There are many choices out there but I will give you a couple of my personal picks.  The first is’s Radarlab.  The reason I like this is that it’s java based and has a lot of features available from the website, including a mobile version of the site so you can browse on your smart phone.  Java can be used with pretty much any operating system which means that it doesn’t matter if your running windows, linux, or even apple’s OS.  There are three versions that you can use including one that will track you if you use GPS.  There are a lot of different layers of data you can turn on such as: storm data, watch/warning/advisories polygons and info, spotternetwork spotters, various map styles, and many more.  It does have a little bit of load time initially because it gets all the data from the internet to initialize but once loaded it’s fast and uses very little system resources.  Rather than a one time fee, you can pay per month, per year, and even pay for multiple licences.  The advantage of this is that maybe you don’t need it year round and you don’t want to pay a big up front fee.

Next up is Grlevelx’s Grlevel3 software.  I would consider this a little more scientific in nature but has essentially the same features.  This is an installed program and only works with Windows operating systems.  However, this is a chaser favorite and comes highly recommended.  You pay 80$ once and the software is yours to keep.  There are several other versions that you need to pay for separately but they allow for pretty extensive analysis for after even review.

There are other pieces of software out there but you really need to pay close attention to what you are getting.  The two packages I discussed are the ones that I have used and had good experiences with.  If you need training, I would recommend attending your local NWS weather office and find out when they are hosting a Skywarn training talk.  Another good source is by visiting and joining them.  You can make weather reports with their software and they have a really good online training program that is required to use their software, which is free by the way.