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Dear Outdoor Businesses, Take Weather More Seriously

Recently, several businesses were detrimentally impacted by the weather and over the years many businesses have seen a similar fate. How can companies better prepare for extreme weather? And what can the weather community do to better serve the needs of the public? Let’s dive in.

For more insight, I talked with the President and CEO of an organization that saw significant losses due to weather. The conversation was incredibly telling of the gaps that still exist in becoming a weather ready nation.

The executive commented on the “information overload” that they receive and having to choose what information they listen to and what information they don’t listen to. Is there too much weather information being transmitted?

The current problem isn’t that there’s too much information but that there’s too many people receiving information that’s relatively inconsequential. For example, when I receive a weather warning, more often than not, it doesn’t verify at my exact location.

This brings us to a hotly discussed topic in the weather community: the “false alarm rate” or FAR. This occurs when a warning is issued but the criteria for the warning is never met. What it doesn’t include is how many people in the warning actually observed the criteria or knew the it was met.

Reducing the FAR by refining warnings and warning polygons is an ongoing effort of the National Weather Service (NWS). Each NWS Forecast Office is also responsible for tens of thousands to millions of people spread out over hundreds of miles across their domain area. It’s impossible to tell every person or business what exactly they’ll experience.

What’s the fix? Many organizations turn to the private sector.

The executive I talked with noted that they use the NWS as their weather source but that “big decisions are made based on whether or not I think a storm is going to go right beside us or right over the top of us.”

This is an example where a private organization could step in and help determine what impacts a storm will have on an exact location. The NWS also has Impact-Based Decision Support Services, which is mainly reserved for large, high impact events or big outdoor events. Should the NWS take more initiative in reaching out to outdoor events or venues?

At the end of the day, it’s the responsibility of the business to have a reliable weather source and swift action plan. This is especially true if it’s an area prone to a particular phenomenon. But it’s also the responsibility of each and every one of us to have a personal responsibility to be aware of our surroundings.

My plea to anyone and everyone: take weather seriously, be aware, and be ready.

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