[Click Here for Text Version]


                                        March 9, 1982

TO:       All Holders of Operations Manual

SUBJECT:  Transmittal Memorandum for Operations Manual Issuance 82-5

1.  Material Transmitted:

    Chapter B-21, Severe Storm Reporting Networks (6 pages).

2.  Summary:

    The entire chapter has been rewritten.  This new chapter:

    a.  provides new guidelines for personnel and Weather Service
        offices to help them develop or expand existing severe storm
        reporting networks,

    b.  defines NOAA/FEMA role (2.1), and

    c.  defines liability.

3.  Effect on Other Instructions:

    a.  Supercedes Chapter B-21, TM 71-19, dated June 28, 1971.

    b.  Cancels OML 9-78, dated August 9, 1978, filed with B-21.


[NOAA logo]

[NWS Operations Manual header] SEVERE STORM REPORTING NETWORKS Table of Contents: 1. Objective 2. Responsibilities 2.1 National Weather Service Headquarters (WSH) 2.2 Regional Headquarters 2.3 Weather Service Forecast Offices (WSFO's) 2.4 Weather Service Offices (WSO's) 3. Recruitment 3.1 Emergency Service Organizations 3.2 Volunteer Organizations 3.3 Individual Citizens 3.4 Substation Observers 4. Training 5. Operational Considerations 6. Recognition 7. Liability * * * * * * 1. Objective. The fundamental objective of Severe Storm Reporting Networks is to provide timely and accurate reports of severe weather in support of the National Weather Service (NWS) Severe Local Storm Warning Program. When practical, these networks should be tailored to support other NWS warning programs, such as flash floods and winter storms. 2. Responsibilities. Each office with warning responsibility will develop severe storm spotter networks commensurate with the risk in its area of responsibility and the availability of communications. Arrangements for receiving, distributing, and using reports in severe weather statements, warnings, and other issuances will be included in the Station Duty Manual. WSOM Issuance 82-5 3-9-82
SEVERE STORM REPORTING NETWORKS (B-21) SECTION 2 2.1 National Weather Service Headquarters (WSH). WSH provides broad guidance to the program. The Weather and Flood Warnings Coordination Staff, Wx5, coordinates activities between the NWS regions and WSH staff offices, as well as with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to ensure compliance with the NOAA/FEMA Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). Furthermore, it develops and distributes audio-visual training aids and publications for spotter training. 2.2 Regional Headquarters. Regional Headquarters monitor the spotter program for accomplishment of goals and maintenance of quality control, and, when appropriate, initiate recommendations for Public Service Awards for individual spotters or groups. Reference MOU Annex A work plan -- NWS-FEMA responsibilities for maintaining spotter networks. 2.3 Weather Service Forecast Offices (WSFO's). For its county warning area, each WSFO will accomplish the tasks assigned to a Weather Service office (WSO) in Section 2.4. The area manager will evaluate the area-wide status and adequacy of spotter networks. Further, the area manager will: a. Ensure that the latest spotter training techniques and materials are used by the WSO's in the area manager's area of responsibility. b. Ensure that reports are being relayed between adjacent county warning areas; and c. Establish and monitor an area-wide plan for effective collection and utilization of reports by NWS offices operating in a backup role. 2.4 Weather Service Offices (WSO's). As the backbone of the NWS warning system, WSO's must place a high priority upon the development and maintenance of severe local storm spotter networks. In addition to ensuring that the coverage of the networks is sufficient, each WSO meteorologist in charge/official in charge/hydrologist in charge (MIC/OIC/HIC) will: a. Encourage and assist communities to develop spotter networks to meet both local government and NWS requirements; b. Provide initial and refresher training to ensure spotters are knowledgeable of the latest developments in severe weather identification and reporting; c. Ensure that reports are relayed to adjacent WSO's/WSFO's as appropriate; d. Ensure that WSO personnel are familiar with procedures for obtaining, using, and distributing reports and that they accomplish these functions in an effective manner; and 2 WSOM Issuance 82-5 3-9-82
SECTION 2 SEVERE STORM REPORTING NETWORKS e. Provide the backup office with up-to-date lists of spotter contact or relay points. Instruct spotters to report to backup office if contact cannot be established with the primary WSO. 3. Recruitment. Whenever possible, make use of existing networks established by local Civil Defense (CD) officials, law enforcement agencies, amateur radio operators, and other groups with mobile communications capabilities, such as state highway departments, park rangers, etc. In this initial contact stage, it is essential that the potential spotter group be given a frank and objective explanation of its role and mission in support of the NWS warning program. It should be explained that casual or fleeting interest is not sufficient. Training, communications, and activation procedures should be thoroughly discussed. 3.1 Emergency Service Organizations. Fire departments and law enforcement agencies have been the backbone of the spotter program for years. The state highway patrol and troopers have proven especially effective. Emergency medical services, utility crews, and other such groups should be given consideration in any recruiting effort. These organizations have the necessary communications and a basic involvement in public safety. Participation and training of these organizations are essential to a succesful spotter program in most communities. Nevertheless, total reliance upon these groups can be risky as their availability as spotters has to take second priority to their primary emergency functions. Local CD or emergency management agencies should be encouraged to develop and maintain spotter networks which will support both local warning systems (sirens, cable override, etc.) and the NWS program. Some CD agencies have their own communications system, and most have access to their local police and fire units. As a result, they are often excellent contact and relay points between spotters and the NWS. This is especially true where National Warning System (NAWAS) drops exist. Despite their desire to cooperate with the NWS, many CD groups lack the resources to maintain a reliable spotter network and/or the means of relaying reports to the NWS. Under these conditions, it will be necessary to seek the assistance of volunteer groups. 3.2 Volunteer Organizations. Many CD agencies and NWS offices receive valuable spotter assistance from the Amateur Radio Service (HAMS) and the Citizen's Band (CB) service. While Amateur Radio and Citizen's Band may appear to be similar, they are completely separate and distinct as their capabilities and limitations are very different. It is important to have an understanding of both these groups if plans to use either or both for spotter support are to be soundly based. Both services have demonstrated a very high spirit of cooperation and willingness to support various emergency communications needs. An important point to be considered in arranging support from either group is mobilization time. These services are operated exclusively by persons who have an interest in radio but whose primary occupation is other than the operation of this equipment. 3 WSOM Issuance 82-5 3-9-82
SEVERE STORM REPORTING NETWORKS (B-21) SECTION 3 Advance notification for activation (usually 30 minutes or less) is needed in most situations. Once activated, these networks are usually totally dedicated to their primary spotter function, unlike emergency service organizations which may have higher priority functions to perform. Reference WSOM Chapter G-52. 3.3 Individual Citizens. In sparsely populated regions or areas where damaging severe local storms occur infrequently, finding emergency or volunteer groups to serve as spotters is difficult. Use of individual citizens as spotters that report by commercial telephone may, in some cases, be the best or only available option. 3.4 Substation Observers. Substation observers are encouraged to report when a tornado or flood-causing rain is observed in progress (Observing Handbook No. 2, Substation Observations). In many cases, substation observers are eager to report other severe weather events on a real-time basis. Substation network specialists (SNS) know their observers and can be of great assistance in this area. Any attempt to involve substation observers in a spotter role will be coordinated through the responsible SNS. 4. Training. Both initial and refresher spotter training events are essential. Such training not only provides the spotter with the necessary technical skills and confidence; in addition, it increases the users' confidence in the reports. Training sessions also provide the opportunity to motivate and encourage spotters. Although training must usually be scheduled at the spotter's convenience, sessions should be planned to ensure effective use of NWS resources. Annual training is usually necessary in areas with high incidence of severe weather. As resources allow, refresher training should be made available to the spotter at least every 2 years. Training should be conducted by NWS personnel or others who have demonstrated their ability to provide training which meets NWS standards. Spotter training presentations should be tailored to the local area. As a minimum, training presentations will include the use of the film, "Tornado: A Spotter's Guide," and a slide series supplement to Tornado: A Spotter's Guide." The slide series may be modified to meet local needs, but all key points in the series should be covered fully. The publication, "Spotter's Guide for Identifying and Reporting Severe Local Storms," was initially designed and used as the primary spotter training aid. As such, its distribution was unrestricted. This publication has now been revised for use as a field reference guide for spotters who have completed NWS approved training that included both the film and slide presentations. It should only be provided to spotters who have completed such training and not used otherwise. Its cost and purpose prohibit its use as a general handout. 4 WSOM Issuance 82-5 3-9-82
SECTION 4 SEVERE STORM REPORTING NETWORKS (B-21) Spotter training should not be limited to volunteers in the field. NWS radar operators, forecasters, and other staff members involved in the warning process should also receive spotter training. This is essential if they are to evaluate spotter reports effectively. 5. Operational Considerations. The effectiveness of the spotter program depends upon more than the actions of spotters in the field. NWS personnel must provide proper evaluation and interpretation of the reports. Tools such as radar and satellite data and meso-scale analysis, should be utilized. Care should be taken to avoid discrediting a report because it does not conform to the current radar presentation. In many cases, trained spotters are superior to radar in the detection of severe weather events. The spotters provide "ground-truth" information that can be used effectively with radar to track known or suspected severe storms. Real-time radar reports can be of great value to spotters, helping them to position themselves properly to observe storm features. Where communication capabilities exist, NWS offices should provide radar reports, whenever practical, to spotter network control points. Care should be taken to ensure proper credit is given to the source of a report in severe weather statements and warnings. This not only adds credibility to the warning message but also serves as a form of recognition to the spotter. Names of individual spotters should not be used but their organization should be properly identified. 6. Recognition. In addition to contributing their time and personal resources, spotters often risk their own personal safety. Proper and timely recognition of these contributions is essential. Often this may only be in the form of a telephone call or letter to express appreciation. For more significant contributions, a Special Service Award (WSOM Chapter B-17) or a Public Service Award (WSOM Chapter I-80) should be considered. 7. Liability. A volunteer non-paid observer supporting NWS severe storm or flash flood networks may be considered as being an "employee" under the Federal Employees Compensation Act. The final determination as to eligibility and extent of coverage under the Act rests with the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (OWCP), Employment Standards Administration, U.S. Department of Labor. This program is administered by OWCP district offices across the country. Any spotter injured while performing listed observational duties or in the process of reporting an observation either directly to an NWS office or to the nearest authorized local official should direct questions about compensation under the Federal Employees Compensation Act to the appropriate NWS regional office for forwarding to OWCP. A claim may be in the form of a specific letter of particulars from the volunteer to the appropriate NWS office receiving the report, either directly or through some local official. The letter should be accompanied by Forms 5 WSOM Issuance 82-5 3-9-82
SEVERE STORM REPORTING NETWORKS (B-21) SECTION 7 CA-1 and CA-4 signed by the volunteer and the MIC/OIC/HIC, and CA-20 signed by the attending physician. Required forms are available from regional personnel offices. Pertinent billings, receipts, or other supporting documents or statements should be attached and submitted to Personnel Division, Regional Headquarters. Reporting procedure cards or other reporting guides should not designate spotters as "official." Terms such as "Volunteer Storm Reporter" or "Spotter" are preferred. The distinction is necessary to avoid conflicts with the official status of designated substation observers and to assure, if claims are to be properly processed, the "spotters" have been clearly designated as volunteers to a community program. 6 WSOM Issuance 82-5 3-9-82

Copy Courtesy:
Todd Shea
NWSFO La Crosse, Wisc.

Retranscribed by:
Todd L. Sherman/KB4MHH
Coordinator, Alachua County SKYWARN
Gainesville, Alachua Co., Fla.
March 29, 2000.

Alachua County SKYWARN
E-mail: admin@alachuaskywarn.org
Account Created: November 14, 1997.

Copyright © 2000- by Alachua County SKYWARN.
All Rights Reserved.

Skywarn® and the Skywarn® logo are registered trademarks of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,
used with permission in accordance with the NOAA/NWS SKYWARN Branding Guidelines.

Go Back To Top of Page[ Top of Page ]