Ask the Emergency Management Experts – Epicenter Media & Training
This week’s Emergency Management Ask the Experts series uses insights from Epicenter Media & Training Decision Support Meteorologists Kyle Nelson and Rob Dale.
Weather is an Emergency Management Challenge
Earth Networks: What are the biggest weather-related challenges Emergency Management professionals face on a daily basis?
The three biggest weather-related challenges that Emergency Managers face daily are:
- Contextualizing the weather information they receive, including forecasts, outlooks, watches and warnings
- Dissemination of weather information both internally and externally
- Assessing the impact of a hazardous weather event in their jurisdiction
The challenge comes in explaining weather in terms that the public can understand. They really need to know “what’s in it for me” – but at the same time there is not one generic “public.” Emergency managers are responsible for hospitals which may need an hour of notice for a full tornado sheltering process, and for citizens driving to work who need to know when the snow will start and the impact on rush hour, and for those with functional needs who might be electricity dependent and for which a thunderstorm which causes power outages can be life threatening.
Technology as a Solution
Earth Networks: What role do you see data and technology playing to help mitigate these challenges?
With the abundance of information -including weather- that Emergency Managers consume on a daily basis, they must be able to easily receive and readily interpret those products to determine:
- Is this information important to me and my community?
- Who do I need to share it with?
- How urgent is this message?
Once you answer these questions, you can determine HOW the information should be shared. Do you put a post on social media, or do you need to send using your mass notification service?
As research evolves and our understanding of natural and technological hazards deepens, the information pushed from experts to consumers will become more complex. Technology will assist with taking the abundant, complex data, analyzing it to determine relationships as the data now becomes information. This information will be pushed to Emergency Managers to increase situational awareness and allow for more informed decision making.
Technology & Communication
Communicating both internally and externally is a challenge for all Emergency Managers. As technology continues to evolve, the number of communication channels increases. Studies show that humans naturally seek confirmation for the information they receive. If EMs can utilize multiple push communication technologies to share critical information, confirmation by both internal and external stakeholders can be more readily achieved. If our communities can have rapid confirmation of a hazard or threat, that leads to action which is the ultimate goal.
In addition, technology also allows for access to tools to crowdsource information about how a hazard has impacted a community. Citizens and responders alike will be able to share their stories in real time and automated tools will be able to collect and analyze this information from a multitude of sources: Social media, National Weather Service local storm reports, mobile apps, official damage assessment team reports and more. This rapid collection of information will assist Emergency Management in coordinating more effective response and recovery operations, in addition to rapidly conducting damage assessments to construct more informed disaster declarations. We are close to a future where automated processes contextualize, disseminate and share technological and natural hazard information.
Working through Weather Tech Issues in Emergency Management
Earth Networks: What advice would you give to other Emergency Management professionals to help them work through these issues?
Contextualizing hazards, disseminating information and assessing impacts are challenges that keep Emergency Managers in a never-ending loop of finding solutions to ever-evolving problems. Know this: You are not alone in your efforts. The best advice is to network across your profession. Connect via LinkedIn or Twitter or whatever form of social media you prefer. You can also connected in person at local, state, regional, national and international meetups including the International Association of Emergency Managers conference. Also develop a close relationship with your local National Weather Service office as well as local broadcast meteorologists.
The field of Emergency Management continues to evolve at a lightning pace, as do your responsibilities in that realm. Keeping an open mind. It is also critical to stay current with discussions, technologies, and best practices. Subscribe to professional publications to stay abreast of what is happening now and what is on the horizon. Learn from others.
Finally, with all the “solutions” available to address every challenge you know and didn’t know you had, be careful of “shiny object syndrome.” Just because a new widget, tool or technology is offered does not mean you have to utilize it. Seek out tools and ideas, and implement them because they address your challenges, like the weather.
About Epicenter Media & Training
CEO & Founder Christoper Tarantino founded Epicenter Media & Training in 2013 to help empower public safety and emergency management agencies to achieve their goals. Through innovative technology and smart communications, Epicenter Media & Training building global resilience each and every day.
Their blog features helpful articles from training to preparedness to crisis communications. You can learn more about Epicenter Media & Training by visiting their Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Or, you can reach out directly with questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.