Unspoken Truths: The Impacts of Disasters on Meteorologists (165)

Christina Crowe, NWS Training Center - Leadership Academy, Kansas City, MO

 

Abstract:

In the days leading up to disasters, we focus on the science, the data, the expected impacts, and how we can help our partners and the public prepare for the worst. We tackle the uncertainty and provide the best information we can. By the time the storm arrives, we are watching satellite and radar, issuing warnings, alerting our partners to the unfolding hazards, and doing our best to keep going as the adrenaline ebbs and flows with each report of damage or each new scan of the radar. In the aftermath, we focus on the science of damage surveys and continue to provide forecast support to partners as they begin the cleanup process. And while we all talk frequently about all these aspects of disaster response, we rarely talk about the elephant in the room: how these disasters are impacting us as people. As the role of NWS staff evolves to one of greater engagement with our communities, it will become even more important to understand the impacts of responding to disasters of all kinds. Those impacts can range from dealing with the emotional stress of getting our families to safety, worrying about impacts to our homes, coming to terms with fatalities - whether we missed a warning or did everything right, to engaging with disaster victims during surveys. Only by facing these stressors and learning how to manage them, can we be sure we are prepared to handle the next event. This presentation discusses work being done in collaboration with social scientists &amp mental health professionals to understand the impacts of critical incident stress and PTSD on NWS staff. We will also discuss plans in development for providing training to prepare staff before a disaster hits, support each other during and after, and ensure support is available long term.