A Customer-Partner Advisory Board at WFO Memphis

Jim Duke, MIC

A professional forum for critical review of products and services has been established by WFO Memphis. The mission of the board is to form a process for continual review and improvement of services provided by the National Weather Service for the Memphis county warning area.


The advisory board consists of 10 to 14 members representing a variety of business, professional, and government groups. Because membership is diverse, a wide array of customer interests and partner needs are represented. The advisory board provides NWS Memphis with a unique access to reliable, consistent feedback from individuals and groups who have a vested interest in improved forecasts and services. The advisory board helps evaluate NWS services with an eye toward spotting areas of weakness and offering recommendations for improvement.


Members serve a 24-month term on the advisory board, however, half the members who make up the initial membership will serve only a one year term. Each year thereafter replacement members for half of the Board will be recruited in a joint NWS-Advisory Board effort. Therefore, half the membership will always be new nominees, while the other half will have a full year of experience. This will ensure experienced membership on future boards.

The Advisory Board will generally consist of representation from the following areas:

Emergency Management (from throughout the Memphis service area)
News media (print, radio, and television)
Minority population
Public utilities

Other endeavors significantly affected by weather

Advisory Board Leadership

The Advisory Board will be led by a Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson, both of whom will serve for one-year term. The NWS will initially appoint persons to fill those roles for the first year on the initial Advisory Board. Subsequent chairperson will be selected by the Board

members acting in collaboration with the NWS.

Duties of the Chairperson

The Chairperson will be the primary liaison between the NWS and members of the Advisory Board. The Chair will initiate board action to discuss issues with the NWS. The Chair will normally communicate with Board members via e-mail or via conference call. The frequency and agenda of conference calls will be determined by the Chair in collaboration with the NWS. The Chair will also help organize the semi-annual Board meetings with the NWS.

Duties of the Vice-Chairperson

The Vice-Chairperson will assist in functions of the Chairperson. The Vice-Chairperson will serve as Chair in the absence of the Chairperson.

Functions of the Advisory Board Members

Members are expected to review NWS products and services regularly (e.g., two or three times per week). Board members will provide feedback to the chairman or to the NWS whenever they identify problems with NWS services/products, or when their advice is solicited. Board members should seek to help identify any problems with NWS products and service. The NWS will also look to Board members to help initiate new ideas for products and services. The board is expected to meet semi-annually. The main mode of communication throughout the year will likely be email, but conference telephone calls may be conducted occasionally.

Responsibility of WFO Memphis

The NWS Meteorologist in Charge will annually designate one NWS employee to serve as a focus for Advisory Board activities. That employee will be the primary NWS contact for Board members, and will help organize Board meetings. Additionally, the NWS representative will provide the Board with a semi-annual report on NWS actions taken in response to Board suggestions and critiques. The purpose for this report is to provide accountability to the advisory board.

The Board's initial or kick-off meeting didn't make earth-shattering contributions, but questions and comments from Board members have resulted in changes to the Memphis web page; caused WFO Memphis to look at making changes to the SFD and to the ZFP issuance time. Additionally, plans for a graphical hazardous weather outlook were warmly greeted, while the board spotted a couple of minor flaws in our original concept.

Before undertaking this effort we were concerned that recruiting Board members would be difficult. Our concerns were unfounded. No one declined membership; they were all

eager to participate and were appreciative of our intent. Recruiting members turned out to be both rewarding and gratifying. Prospective members universally were glad to be asked, and were happy to see us demonstrate interest in their needs and concerns. The staff at WFO Memphis is convinced the Advisory Board can be a force for real positive change, and we look forward to putting in the kind of work needed to ensure success.