Article image

More extreme weather events will require improving public safety

From the California drought and wildfires to the string of hurricanes that devastated Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean, 2017 has been full of extreme weather events. While politicians argue over environmental policy, climate change is set to bring even more extreme weather in the years to come.

Two recent reports by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine examine disaster readiness and discuss measures that would improve both emergency response systems and the public’s ability to respond and react in the face of a disaster.

The research outline two different categories: the systems used to alert the public during or before an event, and social and behavioral factors.

The researchers argue that improving alert and warning systems is a must, especially because there are so many facets of technology, like social media platforms, that aren’t fully utilized for emergency warning purposes.

Gaining a better understanding of social and behavioral factors can enhance how severe weather events are prepared for and discussed, possibly improving evacuation protocols and infrastructure, among other disaster readiness situations.

The first report focuses on emergency alert and warning systems. Early warning systems like Wireless Emergency Alerts and the Integrated Public Alert Warning System need to match the rapid advances in being made technology.

However, researchers note that any advances made in early warning systems should also take into account social and behavioral sciences.

Facebook, Google, and other social media platforms could be maximized to help inform the public of a disaster, and utilizing private companies and social media will expand the government’s potential to reach more people.  

Another way modern advances in technology could improve alert and warning systems is through improved geotargeting, which could more accurately pinpoint the location of individuals in danger.

The second report discusses the need for weather enterprises to include social and behavioral sciences to improve weather predicting technologies.

“Weather forecasts and warnings are being made with greater accuracy, geographic specificity, and lead time, which allow people and communities to take appropriate protective measures,” said the report. “As recent hazardous weather events have illustrated, social and behavioral factors — including people’s contexts, experiences, knowledge, perceptions, and attitudes — shape responses to weather risks.”

The new research has outlined specific steps that the government and public safety official can integrate to better prepare communities for severe weather events. Whether or not the suggestions will be applied, however, remains to be seen.

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer

News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day