Weather conditions influence a variety of factors in emergency management from disruptions to supply chain logistics and travel, to the way in which a wildland fire may abruptly shift at any given moment. Due to the potential changes meteorological conditions generate before, during, and after an incident, meteorologists and emergency managers must maintain strong collaborative partnerships throughout all four phases of emergency management: mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. Emergency managers today know to contact the National Weather Service (NWS) office to obtain weather and water information supporting emergency management activities; this, however, was not always the case. Past weather-related disasters fueled the integration of weather forecasting with emergency management activities to safeguard both the public and first responders. Significant strides have taken place within the past ten years to standardize the process of embedding meteorologists and hydrologists into emergency operations centers (EOCs) and incident command posts (ICPs). Today, this integration provides both in-person and virtual forecasting capabilities and numerous communication modes to relay weather intelligence in support of disaster response and recovery operations.
The increase in collaboration and integration is primarily attributed to the National Weather Service’s initiative in creating and maintaining a cadre of specialists ready to deploy at a moment’s notice.1While this integration and collaboration may have not always been the norm, lessons learned from hindsight served slowly to reveal how the embedding of meteorologists in EOCs could have significantly improved disaster outcomes years before it became more routine. For example, strong outflow winds during a concert at the August 2011 Indiana State Fair triggered the stage to collapse, killing seven people and injuring fifty-eight others. Although a ten-minute severe storm notice had been provided, emergency management did not evacuate the venue.2 Had emergency managers maintained close contact with an on-site or designated meteorologist before and during the high-attendance event, a more informed decision could have been made, with far different outcomes had the call of an evacuation been made. Overall, meteorological incidents present numerous types of hazards, from the routine such as rain, wind, heat or cold to the extreme of tornadoes, hurricanes, and hail. These types of weather incidents compound the effects of other events whether natural (earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides), technological (power outages, dam failures, industrial accidents), or man-made (acts of terrorism, cyberattacks, or civil disorder). Timely weather forecast information remains vital for all emergency operations regardless of the nature of the event as weather has the potential to compound and amplify the effects or put survivors and responders in danger. The Emergency Operations Center (EOC) functions as a platform for coordination that supports collaboration with meteorologists to receive that timely information.