Getting ready for storm season involves more than just double checking our in house equipment and making sure our staff is ready to go. One very important part in saving lives during tornado season is communication. As broadcasters, we have to communicate with our staff in the newsroom, communicate with meteorologists at the National Weather Service, emergency management, and finally, with you. It is a very tedious process, but one that we are always working to improve.
It's called the Integrated Warning Team and it is made up of members of the media (radio, TV, etc), National Weather Service offices from Wichita, Dodge City, Goodland, Hastings, and Topeka, and emergency managers from across the state. We have one primary goal and that is improving our flow of information when life threatening weather is nearby.
Did you know that when the outdoor warning device (tornado siren) goes off, it could be for something other than a tornado? I grew up in a small town (Geneseo, KS), and when the sirens went off, it either meant a tornado warning had been issued, or local firemen were being summoned. If the sounding siren went up and down, it was strictly for fire. But a continuous sounding of the siren meant tornado warning. But some counties are different. For example, Butler county will sound the outdoor warning devices if there is confirmed 80 mph winds moving in. But up until a few years ago, members of the media were unaware of that policy. Just as basketball and football teams are successful when they work together, warning the public of severe weather is only successful if we work together. During a tornado outbreak (which was the case on April 14, 2012), we rely on our trained storm chasers to tell us how the storm is behaving in the field. We usually have a good idea by studying the radar, but actual eyes under the storm is critical in the warning process. Our communication with the National Weather Service is extremely important because all thunderstorm and tornado warnings come directly from their office. And finally, emergency managers are extremely important because they relay storm and damage information from their spotters.
Forecasting severe weather is getting better and better, but it must go hand in hand with our communication with key players in the warning process. So when you see us cover storms this spring and summer, you'll know a little bit more about the people we are in constant contact with, even if we don't mention them on the air. It's a really fascinating process, and when it's successful, lives are saved.
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