Educating emergency managers about weather-related hazards

 

Timothy C. Spangler, Victoria Johnson

UCAR/COMET

Boulder, Colorado USA

 

The most common crises that emergency managers face are those related to hazardous weather—snowstorms, floods, hurricanes, heat waves, tornadoes, etc. However, man-made disasters, such as accidental releases of hazardous substances or terrorist acts, also often have a weather component. For example, after the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, emergency managers were concerned that thunderstorms in the area might cause the building to collapse, putting rescuers in further danger. Training emergency managers to recognize the importance of weather in disaster planning and response has been a small but important focus of the COMET Program’s educational development effort.

 

Topics addressed in COMET training modules that are pertinent to emergency management include fire weather, hurricanes, flood events, and air contaminant dispersion. Additionally, the module entitled Anticipating Hazardous Weather and Community Risk provides an overview of basic meteorological processes, describes a broad range of weather phenomenon, and then addresses what forecast products are available to emergency managers to assess a threat to their community. In many of the modules, learners are presented with scenarios that give them the opportunity to practice decision-making in hazardous weather situations. We will demonstrate some of those scenarios and discuss how training can be used to model good emergency management skills.

 

We will discuss ways to communicate with the emergency management community and provide examples of how distance learning can be used to educate and train emergency managers.