National Weather Service meteorologists encourage the public to have several ways to receive severe weather information.
That's also how they are presenting spotter training to emergency management and other emergency responders — in various ways.
For many years the bulk of spotter training by meteorologists from the National Weather Service, Norman Forecast office, was conducted during about 40 sessions in Oklahoma and western portions of North Texas. Now, training is offered through live classes and webinars, primarily in February and March.
The Norman Forecast office is responsible for weather coverage of 48 Oklahoma counties and eight counties in western North Texas. Those are divided into 12 regions and one live class is conducted in each. This is the second year webinars have been used.
“In an ideal world we would be traveling to every town and every city and talking to anybody that was interested in storms, but the reality is we can't do that,” said Rick Smith, warning coordination meteorologist in Norman. “What we found last year is it's much easier for a lot of the spotters to get the training they need with this combination of online training and then some live classes. With these webinars you can sit on your couch and go through them or take them as a group. We had hundreds and hundreds of people last year that did that and we reached counties and groups of people we've never been able to reach before.”
The first of four webinars is scheduled for Feb. 26. The first of the 12 live sessions was held Tuesday night in Guthrie.
The training sessions cover fundamental information that every spotter needs to know, with a focus on safety, identification of key weather features and proper reporting procedures, Smith said.
Keeping people safe
In the Guthrie regional session, participants came from Logan, Lincoln and Payne counties, he said.
David Ball, emergency management director for Logan County and the city of Guthrie, hosted the session.
“A lot of my folks that attended have done this many times, it's just a matter of re-emphasizing everything and it helps keep the public safe,” said Ball, who gets assistance from 11 spotters, law enforcement and fire departments throughout the county. “The spotters' safety is also very important. With my guys, we may talk on the radio about going somewhere, but I tell them every time ‘If you don't feel comfortable somewhere, then leave and just tell me where you're going.' I'm not out there, I'm here in the office watching it and I can give them information from the computer from looking at radar, but it's still not the same as what they are experiencing being there.”
The meteorologists recommend that spotters complete the online training materials before attending a webinar or a live class.
Most sessions are open to anyone, although individuals should contact their emergency management director before attending, especially if interested in becoming a member of a local storm spotter network.
During severe weather, storm spotters report to emergency managers.
“I want to know from the spotter, ‘What exactly are you seeing?'” Ball said. “For example, we might ask, ‘Is it raining, is it hailing?' The spotters are our eyes and our ears out there.”
The emergency managers relay their severe weather information to the National Weather Service.
Smith said his office also has an official National Weather Service YouTube channel. They are planning to post material there, also.
“The goal of all this is to make it easier for people to take the training on their own schedule,” Smith said. “We want to place it out there in as many different ways as we can and let people use what is best for them.”
AT A GLANCE
Forecasters from the National Weather Service in Norman conduct storm spotter training sessions each year to help prepare spotters for the upcoming severe weather season.
Most of the training in 2013 will be completed through online modules and live webinars, with live training classes conducted on a regional basis. For information about the 2013 training schedule, go to www.