Training in the National Weather Service:
The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management’s 2016 Earth, Wind and
Fire Exercise with Core Partners
Jonathan Kurtz, NOAA/NWS Norman, Oklahoma, Norman, OK
Todd Lindley, NOAA/NWS Norman, Oklahoma
Richard Smith, NOAA/NWS Norman, Oklahoma
Vivek Mahale, NOAA/NWS Norman, Oklahoma
Barry Bowers, NOAA/NWS Norman, Oklahoma
Infusion of National Weather Service (NWS) Impact-based Decision Support Services (IDSS) into the emergency management (EM) community is foundational to achieving a Weather-Ready Nation. Between 14 and 17 November 2016, WFO Norman (with support from WFOs Amarillo, Tulsa, and Fort Worth) participated in the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management’s (ODEM) 2016 Earth, Wind & Fire (E,W&F) statewide exercise. The NWS’s role in this fully functional exercise was highly immersive, and demonstrated the essence of EM/NWS partnerships.
During a seven-month planning phase, meteorologists from WFO Norman developed an exercisable weather scenario that met ODEM objectives. The simulated weather needed to mimic plausible real-world conditions. Historic meteorological cases were used to produce a multi-hazard event that included severe convection in eastern Oklahoma, wildfires in southwestern Oklahoma, and an imminent winter storm over the Panhandle and northwestern Oklahoma. During the peak of simulated weather impacts on 17 November, a mock 6.5 magnitude earthquake was exercised to occur near vital oil industry infrastructure at Cushing, Oklahoma. The mock earthquake was exercised to result in a failure of Lake Carl Blackwell Dam, prompting a flood wave at Stillwater, Oklahoma.
Based on the scenario, internal WFO training objectives were developed and put into action during the late summer and early fall. Prior to the exercise, ODEM and the WFO conducted numerous planning sessions at the state Emergency Operations Center and a joint “pre-game huddle” prior to the event, as well as a post-exercise hot wash and after action review. Similar to communications with decision makers in advance of real-world high-impact weather events, WFO Norman provided forecast graphics and multimedia briefings via YouTube in the days leading up to the full-scale exercise. Not only were the meteorological events simulated during E,W&F realistic, they seemed to actually foretell real events!