Presentation Abstract for 2008 17th Symposium on Education, American Meteorological Society
Communicating Hurricane Awareness through Distance Learning
Timothy C. Spangler
Director, the COMET® Program
UCAR/COMET, Boulder, CO USA
One of the lessons from the devastating 2005 hurricane season was that it is critical to educate citizens to prepare long before a hurricane occurs, act quickly when told what to do by officials, and be self-sufficient for a time, if necessary. However, that lesson must be continually reinforced, particularly as more people move to the coasts or when a quiet hurricane season makes residents more complacent. In addition, the high turnover in emergency managers and others responsible for public safety requires constant efforts to train new personnel who can then work to educate the public. There is no single way to best educate both emergency professionals and the general public, but distance learning is one technique that has proven successful in reaching large numbers of people.
In 1999, COMET developed a Web-based module, Community Hurricane Preparedness, to
give public officials a basic education in hurricane science, hazards, and
forecasting. A large part of the module focuses on uncertainty in forecasts and
how emergency managers must make decisions in the face of that uncertainty.
That module was followed in 2002 with another Web product, Hurricane Strike!, which uses a
full range of multimedia elements to engage children in learning about
hurricane science and safety. Designed primarily for middle school students and
funded by FEMA and the NOAA/NWS, students participate in a week-long virtual
visit to the home of the fictional Castillo family who lives in
The impact of these modules will be discussed, along with thoughts about how the difficult problem of forecast uncertainty might be addressed to enhance hurricane preparedness by the general public through emergency managers, weather broadcasters, and educational materials distributed to school children and their parents.