Having a partnership with NOAA’s “Weather-Ready Nation”, I am more inclined to look at ways to help counties, communities, and individuals become prepared and “weather ready.” Over the past couple of years, I have gone out and conducted basic weather safety classes and training to people of all ages. Recently I have decided to elevate my efforts and branch out into ensuring communities are “Storm Ready.” Some may ask what being “Storm Ready” entails. The purpose of the program is to prepare for and lessen the effects of high impact weather events. As demonstrated by the five statistics below, Illinois has a plethora of widely ranging weather conditions. Each of which brings it’s own set of hazards and preparedness. It is essential that your community attempts to become Storm Ready.
During a typical year Illinois has:
- 51 reported tornadoes [4th highest in the nation]
- >500 severe wind [58+ MPH] reports
- >350 large hail [1.00″+] reports
- 150+ flash flooding reports
- +/- 5 winter storms
I will give a little background on what “Storm Ready” is and the benefits of applying. First and foremost there is no fee to apply or be recognized as a “Storm Ready” county, community, or organization. There may be some cost involved to upgrade siren systems, distributing weather radios, and other preparation methods such as buying weather stations and installing them. You cannot receive funding from the National Weather Service, but can lobby the financial support from private sector or local government entities. This would fall under siren system upgrades, dispatch centers, net control radio towers, etc. When your entity applies for “Storm Ready”, you’re given a list of criteria that it must meet. These criteria or centered on ongoing practices and also coordinating better planning, awareness, and education. With this added planning, awareness, and education, local planners have a great concept on high impact weather events and how to deal with adverse situations by strengthening safety programs already in place. From a public standpoint, being a “Storm Ready” community should ensure you the confidence in knowing the local government leaders and emergency management has the proper plans and tools to implement should the unthinkable event occur. There are currently 107 “Storm Ready” designations across the State of Illinois. 66 of those designations are communities and 25 of them are counties. You can see a listing below of the counties and communities with those designations.
#1: An established communication center is a must. Whether it is a county law enforcement dispatch center or local emergency operating center. You must have that point of communication for when/if severe weather strikes. Not only do you need this established center, but it must be manned 24 hours a day and have a way of receiving watches, warnings, and advisories around the clock.
#2: You must have ways to receive critical, time sensitive products. Not only one way, but multiple ways. I always believe you should have at least three different methods at receiving watches, warnings, or advisories. I will list some below that your organization, county, or village should look into having.
- NOAA Weather Radio
- National Weather Service Webpage URL
- News Media [television or radio]
- Cell Phone Apps [iMap Weather Radio]
- LEADS [Law Enforcement Agencies Data System]
- HAM Radio
#3: You should a way to monitor the weather as it evolves. Examples of this would be a rain gauge to document active rainfall, snow board to accurately document snow, and an anemometer to document wind speed and direction. Your community should also have multiple weather reporting sites with internet access. Weather stations can be linked to from WeatherBug or other live data resources. Theoretically a county should a full network of weather stations that a forecaster can get live observations from. Not only do you want stationary/fixed weather stations, you want to ensure that your community dispatch center is armed with weather radar to track when storms threaten the area. Relying solely on NWS text will not help you prepare ahead of time unless you can see the storms developing downstream.
#4: A very important guideline! You MUST have several ways to disseminate severe weather information. It does your jurisdiction no good if you collect all of the data, but cannot distribute to all the residents. I am going to list several different ways you can distribute information below:
- Cable TV override – No matter what providers are prevalent in your local area, you should have the power to override their service with an EAS message when severe weather strikes. Most communities have partnerships with major internet providers as is.
- NOAA Weather Radios – Every public place should have a weather radio on hand. Schools and hospitals especially! Having raffles and giveaways for weather radios is highly encouraged to ensure that each individual has one in their home.
- Outdoor Warning Siren System – Sirens should not be a primary method in alerting of an incoming tornado, but they do still hold their value. Your county or community would be wise to install a network of sirens that will give outdoor workers, farmers, or travelers a clue that severe weather is approaching.
- Standard Operating Procedures For Police/Fire – When warning sirens fail or are not an option; many times emergency vehicles will go up and down the roads blaring a warning over their PA systems. It would be a good idea to designate routes and a script to convey a call to action statement.
- Telephone Services – Telephone trees or reverse 911 systems are a very basic, but worthy implementation. If you utilize your 911 center correctly, you can send out phone calls for vital weather information.
#5: A Storm Ready Community has an active hand in education. Hosting regular spotter training courses bi yearly is a great way to complete this step. Weather radio giveaways are the idea here!
#6: Having preparations on an internal basis. Your community leaders and emergency management should have plans in place before, during, and after severe weather. During severe weather, your communication center will need a way to report conditions and damage to the NWS in real time. That could be via ham radio, telephone, or NWSchat. There should be guidelines when to activate storm spotters and sirens. Emergency Managers should actively communicate with the NWS on a monthly basis.
How does the application process work?
- Community applies in writing to the National Weather Service
- Storm Ready Board reviews the application
- Board performs a site-wide visit to verify all claims on application
- Should criteria NOT be met, the board will recommend actions to improve and also assist with planning
- Should criteria be met, board will host a recognition ceremony pictured below.
More information on becoming “Storm Ready”: http://www.stormready.noaa.gov/
As a WRN Ambassador, I offer my full services to any community looking to achieve “Storm Ready” status. My services can be found: http://chicagostormchaser.com/services
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