“It’s our job,” Smith said. “It’s what we’re here to do. We have about 28 people who work in the office who worked as a team to have those successes.”
Social media played a vital role in those warnings and is outlined as a best practice in the findings. Using a dedicated Facebook page, warnings are posted that people can tune into via smart phones and other mobile devices when the power goes out.
On an event-by-event basis, the office team edits the content of the social media posts to increase effectiveness, the assessment team found. WFO Norman did not provide hourly, short-term text weather discussion, choosing to put more emphasis in social media.
“We’re staffed 24 hours a day, so we’re monitoring our Facebook page constantly,” Smith said.
Preparedness and awareness are key, and people should not rely solely on social media.
“You need at least three different ways to get a warning,” Smith said.
Keep phones charged when bad weather is predicted, he advised. A battery-operated weather radio also is a good source of information if cell towers are damaged or if the lines get jammed. Following the Moore tornado, service was disrupted for many people.
When tracking information on Facebook, stick with the National Weather Service Norman Facebook page.
“That’s our page that we control,” Smith said. “We can’t control what people do on their own Facebook pages. We were doing updates sometimes every three minutes and providing very detailed information.”
Smith said forecasters also were working with the mass media to get the information out. Sending a consistent message with safety guidelines is key, he said.
Despite the positive findings, Smith said it’s hard to get excited about something that took such a heavy toll on people.