9-1-1; What Is Your Emergency?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Weather the Storm: Monitoring Weather Plays a Key Role in Major Incident Management

Taken from Public Safety Communications Magazine, September 2009
Written by Susan Fichter, Manager at DTN/Meteorlogix specializing in business-to-business weather solutions. She has more than 17 years of experience consulting with businesses on how to best manage their weather-related risks.

Major disasters can happen anytime, anywhere, and weather events affect the decisions and response times that ensure public safety. The 911 call center is the first line of defense for managing a major incident. Addressing a major incident involves three processes: planning, response and mitigation. By the time a weather disaster strikes, call centers should already be prepared to deal with a rapid spike in call volume. Public safety departments rely on advanced weather technology to help determine staffing needs in call centers and around the community. In addition, the same services monitor when severe weather passes, so public safety officials can lead recovery efforts during and after an event.

When it comes to addressing a major disaster, communications is key. Establishing communications channels among city departments and workers proves crucial to reducing delays and response times. This includes keeping all departments in the loop - especially when weather extremes are a factor.

Custom Weather Service

Agencies can conveniently and accurately monitor weather conditions by implementing a real-time, location-specific weather service. This service can alert multiple departments to user-defined weather threats. Some proactive centers also use this information to alert various community organizations, such as nursing homes, schools and businesses, of the risk for severe weather conditions.

There are multiple reasons for using a weather information service as a risk management tool in the disaster plan. First and foremost, when it comes to mitigating major incidents, lives are on the line. Many decisions are made surrounding incidents that directly affect community safety. Having accurate weather information takes the guesswork out of decision-making and allows call centers to dispatch personnel in a safer manner.

Weather technology also helps keep the community's assets out of harm's way. Call center personnel can manage risk and improve response times by using a service that provides consultation from a meterologist during major incidents that involve weather. Some services make this as easy as posting a question on an online message board. In any case, early warning notifications distributed by weather service providers allow call centers to stay ahead of changing weather conditions and threats to their community.

Lightning Strikes

Lightning is the weather threat most commonly misunderstood. Too often people rely on their senses - sight and sound - to monitor lightning. What may surprise you is that lightning injures more than 360 people annually in the U.S. and can strike up to 10 miles outside of a storm. A weather service that displays real-time lightning strikes serves a a valuable safety resource. Call centers can set user-defined advisories and warning zones for lightning strikes to alert officials and the public in at-risk areas. These boundaries can be scaled as needed for the varied evacuation times of different facilities or city events.

Monitoring real-time lightning as it approaches assists call center personnel position spotters. Moreover, a weather service can provide "all clear" alerts when the lighting risk diminishes.

Call centers can also monitor and be alerted to storm corridor activity when using a weather service. By focusing on storm corridors, dispatchers can track storms to detect mesocyclone and tornado activity. Storm corridors provide information about the direction of a storm and its intensity, so call centers can proactively notify teams on high or critical alert and safely position storm teams in the field. Also, it's crucial to have a system in place that shows recent storm corridor history to support post-event analysis.

In addition to lightning and tornadoes, advanced weather services help dispatchers mitigate other weather risks, such as flooding, severe winds, snowstorms, ice and extreme hot or cold temperatures. The main weather concerns in the public safety spectrum lie within the extremes; sub-zero temperatures, torrential downpours and straight-line winds are just a few examples of weather occurrences that often place call centers on heightened alert.

Although major incidents cannot always be forecast, having an advanced weather service in the call center will greatly improve public safety response and recovery efforts. As the first line of defense for mitigating disaster, dispatchers must have access to such tools as advanced severe weather warnings to keep public safety personnel and community members out of harm's way.

No comments:

Post a Comment