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Weather and Society Watch

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Red River Devils Lake Integrated Warning Team Workshop
by Peter Rogers* and Mark Frazier**

The National Weather Service (NWS) Forecast Office in Grand Forks, N.D. hosted a first-of-its-kind, flood-focused Integrated Warning Team (IWT) Workshop June 1-2, 2011 in Fargo, N.D. Red River of the North and Devils Lake flooding pose unique challenges that require cooperation between multiple agencies and organizations. Representatives of the integrated warning team included NWS, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD), North Dakota Department of Emergency Services, North Dakota State Water Commission, North Dakota VOAD, local county emergency managers and city officials, media, North Dakota State University (NDSU), and University of North Dakota (UND).

The first day of the workshop focused on team building. During three discussion panels, experts from the different components of the team described how their organizations typically provide services and communicate prior to and during flood emergencies. The panels also addressed how the general public responds to those messages. Workshop participants had the opportunity to learn about other agency missions and how each part of the integrated warning team can help integrate those missions to more effectively serve the public. Small group breakout sessions built upon this concept and encouraged attendees to explore new ways to collaborate with each other for future flood events.

The second day of the workshop focused on examining the social science component of flooding. Presentations given by Dr. Jeff Lazo, director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Societal Impacts Program (SIP), and Dr. George Youngs, from the NDSU Department of Emergency Management, challenged workshop participants to consider how human attitudes/behaviors and past experience affect response. For example, some of the hypotheses that were discussed included the idea that frequent experience with flooding leads to fatigue, which leads to poor response or that frequent experience with flooding leads to knowledge, which leads to better response. It was agreed that further research was needed in the social science realm.

The overarching theme of the workshop was to better understand how all of these elements are integrated and strive to more effectively serve the public and communicate a unified message. The workshop has been a springboard to partner with NDSU faculty to study public response to warning messages, examine the development of a regional Joint Information Center that crosses organizational and political boundaries, and integrate Minnesota and North Dakota VOAD into pre-flood preparedness/education campaigns.

The consensus of the participants was to continue further dialogue and work toward future "Basin Coordination" workshops on an annual or perhaps semi-annual basis. Team members can also discuss other ideas and collaborate through an online forum using Google Groups. "The workshop provided an excellent opportunity for regional flood fighting partners to share with each other and find new ways to work together as we strive to enhance public services before, during, and after flood emergencies," said Peter Rogers, Grand Forks general forecaster and organizer of the workshop. For more information, please contact Mark Frazier at the NWS office in Grand Forks at 701-772-0720.

*Peter Rogers ( is a General Forecaster at the National Weather Service (NWS) Weather Forecast Office (WFO) in Grand Forks, ND.

**Mark Frazier ( is the Meteorologist in Charge at the National Weather Service (NWS) Weather Forecast Office (WFO) in Grand Forks, ND.

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