Increasing the Value of Uncertain Weather and River Forecasts for Emergency Managers

Hoss, Frauke ; Fischbeck, Paul

Année de publication
Emergency managers (EMs) use National Weather Service (NWS) forecasts to prepare for and respond to severe weather events. To effectively facilitate such decision making, the NWS needs to understand this large and important group of clients. EMs translate the forecasts to local topography, suggest actions to take in preparation of high water levels, and use their local network and reputation to make people act. For this study, 17 EMs in towns along rivers were interviewed and asked to describe their use of river and weather forecasts. Forecast uncertainty is one of the many uncertainties an EM has to manage when coordinating an emergency response. Each of the interviewed EMs who uses river forecasts was acutely aware that river forecasts often have substantial uncertainty. To cope with this uncertainty, EMs engage in extensive information gathering before forming their own judgments. However, EMs often do not communicate their judgment of the situation to the public, fearing potential liability claims and backlash from the media. For emergency management decisions, while EMs do consider forecast data, they rely heavily on recorded data and monitoring crews, limiting the benefits of forecasts that can be made with significant lead time. This paper arrives at recommendations for the NWS on how to increase the value of river and weather forecasts for decision making in emergency management.

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