CIMMS Scientists Help Train Alaska NWS Staff


In April, CIMMS research associates Denise Balukas, Sarah Grana, and Megan Taylor trekked to the state of Alaska to help host an Impact-Based Decision Support Services Deployment Boot Camp. Balukas, Grana, and Taylor spent the last few months converting the residence course typically offered in Kansas City, into a customized travel version that could stand up to Alaska’s unique and challenging environment.


The training group sent to Alaska consisted of Balukas, Grana, and Taylor, as well as Master Instructor Marco Bohorquez, Operations Proving Ground Director Kim Runk, and National DSS Program Manager Charlie Woodrum. The course took place from Tuesday, April 19 through Friday, April 22, with topics ranging from communication to basics of incident command and decision support, working with partners, creating presentations, doing media interviews, and much more. The highlight of the week was the full-day oil spill and chemical leak simulation, involving 14 actors and facilitators.


Each of the CIMMS research associates had a role to play. Denise Balukas taught a section on Plain Language, facilitated a group of participants during the full-day mock simulation, and consistently contributed to the discussions and questions from the group. Sarah Grana taught a section on Fundamentals of Communication. Like Balukas, she also facilitated a group of participants during the simulation and contributed to discussions and questions. Megan Taylor taught a session on media interviews and put each participant in the hot seat during a practice interview in front of the class. She also taught basic graphic design, and played the role of the governor’s handler in the full-day simulation. All three of the CIMMS research associates were also very active in the planning, documentation, and execution of the entire course.

Students and facilitators alike gained a lot from this boot camp. Responses from anonymous course surveys include:

Alaska5“[I] liked the diversity of all the facilitators; they complimented each other on their broad knowledge.”

“That was the right amount of nervousness.”

“I have nothing but good things to say about this course.”

Balukas, Grana, and Taylor will continue working on this course, with several additional in-house offerings scheduled for the next year with other potential travel courses possible.