Boost Your Weather Game: Getting Started with the National Weather Service

STEP 1: Know Your Local NWS Office

  • Head to www.weather.gov. This is the main NWS page that shows all weather watches, warnings, and advisories posted for the entire country.
  • Click the county or regional area that you are from. This can be somewhat challenging since the map is small. Once you click on your county, you will be taken directly to the homepage of your local WFO! The name of your office is located at the top of the page. For instance, I have worked with NWS Lubbock, NWS Austin/San Antonio, and NWS Baltimore/Washington during my EM career.
  • If the map option doesn’t work for you, you can also search your city and state in the local forecast search box on the left side of the page. After you hit “Go,” you will be taken to your local 5 day forecast. The local office is shown in the top left above “Current Conditions.” Hold on to that office name!

2. Find the name/contact information of your local NWS Warning Coordination Meteorologist (WCM)

3. Contact your WCM!

4. Request some COOL NWS Resources!

  • NWSChat: NWSChat is a free chatroom tool that allows you to send a chatroom message directly to NWS meteorologists at any time (24/7). EMs can use the tool to ask for forecast clarifications, forecast updates, or even storm support during an emergency activation! Many EMs have used it successfully to make decisions in the middle of weather-related disasters, and it is one of the best (and free!) resources to have to easily connect to your local office. Only NWS, academics, media meteorologists, and public safety personnel are allowed to have accounts. Make sure to also ask for the office phone number. Save it in your work cell — you never know when you may need to call them during an emergency. (Or, call them on scene after a tornado for a damage assessment — me!).
  • iNWS: iNWS is a tool that texts and emails weather watches and warnings to public safety professionals. You can create an account and set up notifications for any of the weather products that you would like to be informed about for your jurisdiction. The notifications are extremely useful for weather situational awareness!
  • Support Services: The WCM will likely be super excited to tell you what EM support services your local office provides, but if they don’t, be sure to ask to see what they offer. Some offices will be impact briefings, weekly calls, or other services to help you stay in the know regarding severe weather.
  • Outreach Programs: NWS and EM shares the same mission to save lives and protect property, which means we also share the mission to conduct public outreach to help promote weather safety in our communities. NWS is a great partner to have at outreach events or to coordinate other events with! Offices have been known to come out to preparedness fairs, presentations, and other outreach events. NWS also has their own outreach programs and missions, which help you if you are unsure exactly what type of information to teach the public involving severe weather!

5. Catch a Tour of Your Local NWS Office

6. Inquire about StormReady and SKYWARN

A photo of Leander, TX receiving NWS StormReady status during a City Council Meeting in 2019.

7. Exercise Support

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Ashley Morris

Ashley Morris

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CEM | MD Emergency Management | Preparedness & Alerts & Plans | IMT | Social Media | VOST | SVI | Weather Forecasting | Geoscientist | GIS | ♥️🚒 #EMGTwitter