Birmingham Forecaster Scott Unger conducts web based storm spotter training (Photo: WFO Birmingham)
(March 23, 2012) - What is unusual about conducting a spotter class where no one is in the room with the presenter? Nothing, if it is web-based training that reaches a lot of people. The National Weather Service forecast office in Birmingham, Ala. has been conducting a mixture of web-based and traditional spotter classes this year.
Birmingham Meteorologist-in-Charge Jim Stefkovich says the web training has been a great success. "We've averaged close to 60 people per class, and one class actually had 157 in attendance."
Since there is always a great need to have a personal presence in an office's warning area, WFO Birmingham targets opportunities to reach large numbers of people whenever possible.
"I believe technology and efficiency serves this type of training very well," said Stefkovich. "In the past, our office struggled with the inefficiency of driving up to six hours for a class where less than 10 people might show up, especially in our rural counties. Providing an option to attend a class in person or online allows us to reach a lot more people, when compared with traditional training methods."
Launched in the 1970s, the National Weather Service SKYWARN® storm spotter program now has nearly 290,000 trained severe weather spotters. These volunteers help keep their local communities safe by providing timely and accurate reports of severe weather to their local NWS forecast office.
Volunteers include police and fire personnel, dispatchers, EMS workers, public utility workers and a wide range of other concerned private citizens. Training typically covers:
- Basics of thunderstorm development
- Fundamentals of storm structure
- Identifying potential severe weather features
- Information to report
- How to report information
- Basic severe weather safety
SKYWARN® is a registered trademark used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration