SSD/97-10 3-1-97

Technical Attachment

A Tri-State Fair NWS Survey

By the External Activities Team NWFO Amarillo, TX

Steve Bilodeau Lance Goehring Christine Lopez
John Cockrell John Holsenbeck Tabatha Seymore
Jeff Colton Todd Lindley Fred Zeigler

Introduction

The National Weather Service in Amarillo, Texas, serves the people of the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles. A survey was conducted to evaluate services we provide. Our county warning area consists of 23 counties, seven of which are in the NOAA Weather Radio Service Area (counties within 40 miles of the transmitter). Five counties are in our Near Service Area (counties which are greater than 40 miles from the transmitter, but in which residents can hear the NWR occasionally). Eleven counties in our county warning area have no NWR coverage from Amarillo. Our NWR coverage is limited. Therefore, our survey of the public was more "total service" oriented, rather than strictly NWR-related.

Vitals

During the week of September 14-21, 1996, the National Weather Service in Amarillo staffed a booth at the Tri-State Fair. The fair gets its name from the surrounding geographic area, including the states of Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. The fair attracted over 190,000 people during the eight days. Since many people that come to the fair are from outside Amarillo, it was a perfect opportunity to meet people from around our entire county warning area. Everyone in our office was involved in some way with the fair. We had at least three people at the booth every weekday from 4 p.m. until 11 p.m. and both weekends from 10 a.m. until 11 p.m. Many new permanent contacts came out of these eight days which has helped our public image. The fair was a very positive experience for all involved, and many found it enjoyable being away from the routine duties at the office.

Why were we there?

The main goals we wanted to accomplish at the fair were to gain public exposure and educate the public about the NWS mission. In the eight days of the fair, we collected 530 surveys and met with thousands of our customers. We handed out hundreds of Severe Weather, Winter Weather, and various informational brochures. We even handed out our own NOAA Weather Radio brochure which was personalized to the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles. We were there to talk about severe weather preparedness and to make contacts with severe weather spotters as well. We made several new contacts with schools and various groups and set up talks with them. We also talked with many people about our home page on the Internet. A big hit was a chalkboard on which we wrote the current temperature and forecast. Toward the end of the week the weather became quite active, and through the NWR we were able to reproduce the latest Short Term Forecast on the chalkboard to keep people informed. We were also fortunate to be able to raffle a top of the line NOAA Weather Radio, donated by the Tandy Regional Corporate Headquarters.

NWS Survey Results

The original survey follows; the results of the survey are in bold under the appropriate question. A couple of questions to note are #3 and #8. Question #3 reads: If a tornado touched down in your county at 3 a.m. and you were sleeping, which medium would wake you up so you could receive the warning. Almost half (49%) of the participants (with a NWR) said that the sirens would wake them up. This is interesting, because unless these people are light sleepers, and their windows are open, they would have a tough time hearing the sirens. NWR was the second favorite answer. Of course, we in the NWS would like to hear this answer more often, especially if the NWR has an alarm tone on it. Question #8 dealt with the meaning of "widely scattered thunderstorms." More than half of the participants (53%) answered "a widespread coverage of storms." This brings up the old question about whether or not we are confusing the public with some of our terms.

Interestingly, 2.5% of those with NWR thought the NWS office was open only from 8-5. Of those without NWR, the percentage was nearly twice that (4%), though happily it was still very low.

Conclusions

The booth at the Tri-State Fair was a huge success, and we continue to reap the benefits of participating. The surveys have shown us where we are in educating the public on different aspects of the NWS. Office tours have gone up, contacts with schools have gotten better, and our public image has improved. The fair allowed the staff at NWFO Amarillo a place where we could share our meteorological knowledge in an enjoyable and relaxing atmosphere. We will now take these results and follow up with more detailed surveys, possibly over the NOAA Weather Radio and/or the Internet. These surveys will help us monitor our progress, and they will also help direct our education to the public.

Acknowledgments

We would like to thank Jose Garcia (MIC), Doug Crowley (AC), Rich Wynne (SOO), and David Cooley (lead forecaster), all at NWFO Amarillo, for their thoughtful input into this paper.

NWS Survey

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE FORECAST OFFICE AMARILLO

Please answer the following questions...

1. What are your sources for weather information? (circle all that apply).

a. NOAA Weather Radio b. Newspaper c. Radio d. Television e. Other________________.

NWR 109 Scanner 17
Paper 82 Internet 8
Radio 290 Other 5
Television 485

2. Do you have a NOAA Weather Radio?

a. Yes b. No

Yes 128 25% have a NWR
No 386

***The remaining questions have been separated between those who do and do not have a NOAA Weather Radio***

3. If a tornado touched down in your county at 3 am and you were sleeping, which medium would wake you up so you could receive the warning?

a. NOAA Weather Radio b. City Sirens c. Local Television Station

NWR
No NWR
Number of Responses
Percent
Number of Responses
Percent
NWR
55
39%
31
8%
Sirens
69
49%
291
74%
Television
14
11%
64
16%
Other
2
<1%
9
2%

4. The National Weather Service is only open from 8 am to 5 pm.

a. True b. False

NWR
No NWR
True
3
16
False
115
374

5. Are more people killed by tornadoes today than in the 1950's?

a. Yes b. No

NWR
No NWR
Number of Responses
Percent
Number of Responses
Percent
Yes
21
18%
108
27%
NO
97
82%
292
73%

6. What organization(s) is(are) responsible for issuing warnings for severe and hazardous weather events?

a. National Weather Service b. Television Meteorologists c. Radio Stations d. Emergency Management

NWR
No NWR
Number of Responses
Percent
Number of Responses
Percent
NWS
109
64%
376
64%
Television
23
14%
81
14%
Radio
18
10%
65
11%
EOC
20
12%
62
11%

7. Do you feel that the National Weather Service provides an essential service to the people of the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles?

a. Yes b. No

NWR
No NWR
True
120
387
False
1
7

8. What does "widely scattered thunderstorms" mean?

a. A widespread coverage of thunderstorms. b. A 20% chance of thunderstorms developing.

c. A 20% coverage of thunderstorms. d. Hit and miss thunderstorms. e. Other_______________.

NWR
No NWR
Number of Responses
Percent
Number of Responses
Percent
Widespread Coverage
59
51%
213
54%
20% Tstms Developing
7
6%
24
6%
20% Coverage
11
9%
39
10%
Hit and Miss
39
34%
116
30%

9. Rate your National Weather Service on a scale of 1 to 10.

(1 = very poor service) (5 = average service) (10 = excellent service)

8.9

10. What products would you like to hear on NOAA Weather Radio?

Most of the suggestions were for very specialized products, i.e. pollen count.

There were very few responses otherwise.

Counties that participated in the survey

County
Percentage of Participants
Potter/Randall (Amarillo) 74%
Moore 3%
Hutchinson 3%
Gray 2%
Lubbock WSFO CWA 3%
All the rest <1%

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The Mission of the National Weather Service:

The Protection of Life and Property and Promotion of the Nations Welfare and Economy.