CIMMS employees create service-oriented training initiative

The National Weather Service Training Center in Kansas City, Missouri, where several University of Oklahoma Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies researchers work.

Helping forecasters more effectively communicate forecasts is the goal of a new training initiative coordinated by University of Oklahoma Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies Research Associates Megan Taylor, Denise Balukas and Brent Pesel. Working at the National Weather Service Training Center in Kansas City, Missouri, they are creating an extensive training course for NWS staff.

The three tiered training initiative includes online modules, in-person classes and best practices training focused on Impact-based Decision Support Services. It is expected to be integrated into NWS operations this fall.

“The focus of the course is more on supporting core decision-making community partners, building products and providing information based on their needs,” Balukas said. “This is more service-oriented training.”

Working toward the goal of a Weather-Ready Nation, NWS employee training can improve community relationships and build a better understanding for how each entity using NWS products uses information provided by forecasters. Faster and more efficient communication to partners means more warning during large hazardous weather events to save lives and property.

“This will be the biggest training initiative the National Weather Service has seen in awhile,” Taylor said. “This is partners focused because the partners are the one moving the people, ordering the sandbags and evacuating people.”

The first 30-hour training tier will be mandatory for all operational employees, including forecasters. The voluntary second tier of training, about 120 hours, is focused on teaching participants how to get information to partners like the Federal Emergency Management Agency and state entities.

Required training provides operational staff baseline skills while ensuring everyone starts on the same playing field, Balukas said. After completing first-tier training, participants may continue to the second tier if they wish.

The second tier goal is to make training participants Deployment-Ready, Taylor said. “We’ve been involved in an IDSS bootcamp since 2012 and we’ve worked the course into this tier,” she explained. “When participants get to the NWS Training Center, we expect them to be ready to deploy and we’ll test them over and over.”

Pesel said to make training relatable for the end-user, he visited the NWS Forecast Office in Pleasant Hill, Missouri, for examples from the field and to gather information for training.

“Trainees need to know how they can apply IDSS to their job,” Pesel said. “Our team has spoken with NWS meteorologist and hydrologists, emergency managers and broadcast media to see how NWS can better support them. This in turn helps our partners better receive and understand weather messages. This can lead to quicker and more informed decisions increasing public safety. This training is about supporting our partners and the best way to find out how is to ask them directly.”

Pesel said the goal is to incorporate examples from the field in the training to make the material more relatable for trainees.

The third and final training tier is specialized, focusing on specific events including high security situations. The third tier of training is scheduled to be completed in a couple of years.

“The goal is building a Weather-Ready Nation. We want to help federal, state and local partners be more prepared to take action,” Taylor said. “This is a shift in culture – it’s exciting and difficult. We are out there to save lives and we do it for $3.33 per person each year.”