Blog/ Focus: Disaster Preparedness

New weather data technology can raise alarm ahead of extreme events

By Glen Denny / Special to Healthcare Facilities Today
November 10, 2017

Lately, on an increasingly frequent basis, weather events seem to dominate much of our news, with rising numbers of severe occurrences presenting fresh challenges for public safety officials dedicated to protecting lives and property. 

It doesn’t just appear that way, it’s an actual fact: Almost 80 percent of disasters faced by public safety and emergency management professionals today are weather-related. It’s not only dramatic, extreme storms that require advanced forecasting for efficient safety planning, it’s also the numerous, more common fog, rain, ice, snow, and wind events that often impact our daily lives. 

In any community, these conditions can differ within neighborhoods, even street to street, and change minute to minute. For anyone involved in safety management—whether responsible for schools, hospitals, churches, companies, organizations, sports venues, pools, parks, or other public gathering sites—being able to monitor and stay ahead of rapidly changing weather at specific locations is a difficult, time-consuming job that can have serious life or death repercussions.

Accustomed to regional forecasting, public safety professionals have traditionally made the best decisions they can given the broad-based storm information they’ve received. 

But today, with severe weather events rising, they face a growing dilemma: What’s the best way to access customized, advance weather intelligence data specific to their area so they can enforce whatever timely and effective safety plans are necessary to protect their community and its assets? 

Though emergency management professionals and public safety officials aren’t trained meteorologists, fortunately, thanks to modern weather data technology and improvements in the ease of access, they don’t have to be. 

A new system of data-driven, location-based alerts offers an innovative tool for safety management officials, delivering customized, active monitoring that triggers advanced emergency preparation plans addressing multiple weather hazards.

America’s a big country, one that experiences nearly every weather event Mother Nature dishes out. Safety managers know that severe weather means different things to different regions across the U.S. and preventative plans must change accordingly. In Florida, emergency management professionals might seek weather alerts informing them when temperatures will fall below 40 degrees so they can implement plans to open homeless shelters or advise citrus owners to protect crops. In Arizona, public safety officials need to know when excessive temperatures might dictate additional safety measures to keep people cool, especially the elderly and very young. 

Each region has a threshold for hot or cold, too much snow, too little or excessive rainfall. And although the big, headline-grabbing weather events like tornados, blizzards, hurricanes, and floods command attention, safety professionals require accurate weather intelligence affecting specific, localized areas where daily conditions have immediate impact on commuters and the public.

At Baron, a provider of critical weather intelligence, scientists have teamed with meteorologists to develop a next generation tool, easily accessible to emergency safety managers and planners, advancing precision weather forecasting. The web portal products offer public safety officials a comprehensive weather monitoring platform targeting street level views. 

High resolution, customizable mapping allows emergency managers to concentrate their attention on operational conditions impacting specific areas of concern, with user-friendly navigation and a pre-set feature allowing up to 20 site maps to be stored for future reference. How much rain has fallen, and how much is expected? Exclusive precipitation, accumulated precipitation and 24-hour accumulation forecasts keep users on top of possible flooding risks. 

The technology allows simultaneous views of areas threatened by potentially damaging winds, flooding or hail. A "Cloud to Ground Lightning" feature shows real-time lightning strikes at street level. Using a combination of actual and forecasted products, the "Road Weather/Conditions" feature offers actual road condition alerts displaying a variety of concerns such as "Patchy Ice," "Flooded," "Snow and Heavy Snow" or just plain slippery road surfaces. The complete tropical weather package tracks hurricanes and tropical storms, monitoring the latest maximum wind speeds, watches, warnings and storm surge conditions, making the information easily accessible.

To keep safety professionals informed in advance, the technology delivers customizable, pinpointed local alerts making officials aware of locations and assets in the path of impending, potentially dangerous, weather. Users select a location, identify the risk and choose a notification method—on screen, by email, or via push notifications to a phone—while the system, which includes patented safety alerts and standard National Weather Service watches and warnings, automatically monitors that location. 

A companion app lets users access real-time weather conditions from any location, a valuable feature for safety departments sometimes short on personnel resources. 

Local and regional safety managers are familiar with their area environment and the kinds of weather events making them most vulnerable. Most have been on the job for some time, and may have grown somewhat skeptical about the accuracy of long and short-term weather forecasting. They shouldn’t be. Advances in computing power, speed and forecast algorithms have dramatically improved weather forecasting technology, and today accessing that critical information is easier than ever. 

While traditional weather services are okay, none deliver the kinds of proprietary, customized weather alerts available through Threat Net & Pinpoint Alerting products. The proprietary alerts they provide supply pre-set custom alerting of 80 different weather conditions. 

Safety personnel can receive customized forewarning of changing conditions invaluable for getting them ahead of weather events, helping them determine timing and scope of emergency response plans. And quite simply, the more advance notice officials get before dangerous weather arrives—the more accurate, granular and detailed that information—the better their response planning will be.

Glen Denny is President of Enterprise Solutions for Baron Services Inc.

 

 

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