– by John Bosse, Director of Energy & Government Services, Earth Networks
Organizers are calling this month’s International Disaster Conference & Expo (IDCE) in New Orleans “the first major global gathering of public and private sector professionals from all disciplines of disaster management.”
The importance of public-private partnerships will be the focus of keynote addresses by FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate and former Department of Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge. These partnerships, in the weather sector in particular, have proved crucial to developing the technology and communications channels used today by first responders and emergency management officials to rapidly deliver critical weather information and alerts that help protect lives and property.
At Earth Networks, we’ve collaborated with the National Weather Service (NWS) since 2002. We provide NWS forecasters with up-to-the-minute data from our network of over 8,000 weather stations. In turn, we’ve integrated data from NWS weather stations to create the world’s largest network of weather monitoring stations. This collaboration has resulted in improved forecasts and severe weather warnings that aid emergency response operations and homeland security planning nationwide.
Our hyper-local weather data helps officials at the Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), the Maryland Joint Operations Center (MJOC), county and city emergency management agencies and 911 centers across the state. Last fall, county and state officials as well as local volunteer fire departments in Texas used our StreamerRT application to receive real-time updates on wind speed, direction and humidity to help mitigate the spread of wildfires. In 2010, following the Gulf Oil Spill in Louisiana, officials monitored approaching storms and received severe weather alerts to help keep clean-up crews safe.
Last year, there were 12 weather-related disasters that caused damage of $1 billion or more. During extreme events like these, local weather information and alerting tools can provide the critical minutes necessary to get out of harm’s way. For example, on April 27, 2011, our Total Lightning Network, which allows us to detect in-cloud lightning, enabled us to issue a tornado alert 8 minutes in advance for the town of Arab, Alabama and another alert was issued 18 minutes in advance for Polkville, Mississippi. And as first responders well know, in a disaster, minutes matter.
When Earth Networks exhibits at the Jan. 17-19 conference, we’ll be demonstrating our state-of-the-art weather monitoring and alerting tools. Stop by our exhibit and share with us how weather information could improve your daily operations and planning.