- Compiled by Paul C. Focazio, New York Sea Grant
Working with communities to be more aware of how to respond to coastal storms is the focus of a multi-year, tri-state effort funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). A series of 10 projects are underway, including one by researchers at the Nature Nurture Center (NNC) who, in early November 2014, conducted two survey sessions with residents in Monmouth and Ocean County, NJ (see the series of tweets from New Jersey Sea Grant, whose staff covered the event).
Participants were asked a series of questions about various flood warning tools and products issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)'s U.S. National Weather Service (NWS). In order to first qualify as a focus group member, potential interviewees had to answer 'yes' to the following series of questions: Have you experienced coastal flooding? Do you rely on flood warnings and alerts to know when to prepare? Do you wish you had more information about your flood risk?
As seen in initial study results, while there are benefits to allowing individuals to use some of the NWS-issued forecast and warning tools themselves during predicted flood events, this practice has its drawbacks, too: "From tools that allow users to monitor projected river heights to flood inundation maps that show which areas in the community will be underwater during floods, the capability and accuracy of flood forecasting has increased dramatically in recent years," says Rachel Hogan Carr, NNC Director and a principal investigator of this NOAA-Sea Grant-funded project. "Despite this, many people still fail to understand and respond properly to flood forecasts and warnings issued by the National Weather Service."
Beyond technological advances in forecast lead-time and accuracy already achieved, what else can NWS do to improve its flood forecast and warning tools so they better motivate flood preparedness and warning response? Through the social science research it conducts, including a NOAA-Sea Grant-funded coastal flood project, Nurture Nature Center is working to understand strategies that the National Weather Service can use to improve public response to riverine and coastal flood forecast and warning products. With these projects, NNC is working to understand which tools are already being used by audiences in New Jersey and Pennsylvania as a means of understanding their flood risk. Also under examination are the kinds of changes and improvements that might motivate people to improve warning response and take preparedness actions.
An introduction to Nurture Nature Center's project "Flood Risk and Uncertainty" Assessing the NWS' Forecast and Warning Tools." Featuring Rachel Hogan Carr, Director of Nurture Nature Center, and Gary Szatkowski, Chief Meteorologist of the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Mt. Holly, NJ/Philadelphia.
“Given the frequency and intensity of flooding not only in this region, but across the country, improving how people prepare for flooding is critical to reducing losses,” says Hogan Carr. “These projects provide an excellent opportunity to help NWS understand how the public uses its flood forecast and warning tools, and what further refinements might improve public preparedness as people respond to news of impending river or coastal flood events.”
Nurture Nature Center, Inc. is a center for community learning about environmental risks in Easton, Pennsylvania, that was established in response to repetitive flooding in the Delaware River Basin in 2004, 2005 and 2006. Flooding is a core focus of its research and outreach programs. Since its formation in 2007, Nurture Nature Center (NNC) has conducted a series of research and education projects about flooding, and developed the Focus on Floods Web site in partnership with National Weather Service. For more about Nurture Nature Center, visit nurturenaturecenter.org.
The Coastal Storm Awareness Program is a research initiative funded by NOAA and Sea Grant to better understand the coastal storm hazards warning system, the information it conveys (what, when, how, and by whom) and the factors that affect whether recipients of this information decide to act on it. The goal of the program is to save lives and promote public safety by creating tools that will better inform people of the true severity of the danger from coastal storm hazards and increase the likelihood that residents who should remove themselves out of harm’s way actually do so and avoid becoming storm casualties.
Tweet, Tweet: New Jersey Sea Grant's Twitter Coverage of November 3rd Focus Group Studies on Severe Storms and Coastal Flooding