Weather-Ready Nation initiative launched internally, nationally

Date Posted: December 13, 2011

Hundreds of offices and individuals called in from around the country to the national town hall on Tuesday, Aug. 16, in which Hayes and roadmap team lead Chris Strager laid out the nuts and bolts of a comprehensive initiative to build a Weather-Ready Nation. The ultimate goal of the vision is to save more lives andprotect livelihoods and the economy as communities across the country become increasingly vulnerable to severe weather events.

Setting the stage, Hayes catalogued the record-breaking extreme events of 2011.

“The impacts are there,” Hayes said, citing research from Munich Reinsurance America. “There’s a trend toward vulnerability. That is really at the bottom of what we are all about in our strategic plan.”

In partnership with other government agencies, researchers, and the private sector, NWS is charting a path to a Weather-Ready Nation through:

  • Improved precision of weather and water forecasts and effective communication of risk to local authorities;
  • Improved weather decision support services with new initiatives such as the development of mobile-ready emergency response specialist teams;
  • Innovative science and technological solutions such as the nationwide implementation of Dual Pol radar technology, Integrated Water Resources Science and Services, and the Joint Polar Satellite System;
  • Strengthening joint partnerships to enhance community preparedness;
  • Working with weather enterprise partners and the emergency management community to enhance safety and economic output and effectively manage environmental resources.

Strager announced more specifics about a series of innovative, community-based test projects across the country, ranging in focus from emergency response to ecological forecasting, to enhance the agency’s preparedness efforts to better address the impacts of extreme weather.

“We need to prove the concepts we are putting forth,” Strager said. “As Jack has often said, ‘Build a little, test a little and field a little.’”

Test projects will initially be launched at strategic locations in the Gulf Coast, South and mid-Atlantic.

NWS Employees Organization President Dan Sobien also joined as a town hall speaker.

“Let me say, these are exciting changes,” Sobien said. “We are very lucky. It is a great plan. Really, it gives us not only the capacity to save lives and property, but it is a giant step forward to keeping our jobs relevant and fulfilling for the future.”

The next day, NWS hosted a national news conference announcing the initiative. During the conference, Hayes also announced that the United States has so far this year experienced nine separate disasters, each with an economic loss of $1 billion or more — tying the record set in 2008. The latest event to surpass the $1 billion price tag is this summer’s flooding along the Missouri and Souris rivers in the upper Midwest. This year’s losses have so far amounted to $35 billion.

Eddie Hicks, IAEM USA president, and Jonathan Malay, president of the American Meteorological Society, joined Hayes and expressed support of the Weather-Ready Nation vision.

“Building a Weather-ready nation is everyone's responsibility,” said Hicks. “It starts with National Weather Service and emergency managers, like the U.S. Council of International Association of Emergency Managers, but it ends with actions by individuals and businesses to reduce their risks. The more prepared communities are for destructive weather, the less of a human and economic toll we'll experience in the future, and that's a great thing for the country.”

“The partnership between the government, private, and academic sectors, all represented in the professional membership of the American Meteorological Society, is extremely strong and is essential in achieving this vision,” said Malay. “Given the resources to grow our scientific understanding of our complex environment through observations and research and to apply this knowledge in serving society, we can do amazing things together.”

During the conference Hayes fielded questions from journalists from NBC news, the Associated Press, USA Today and others. Check the Weather-Ready page in the coming days for the resulting news coverage.