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Severe Weather Alerts


I would like to know why UCAR/NCAR does not have a method in place for
notifying staff of extreme weather events along the Front Range in near
real time.

I was very surprised that staff were not informed about the severe weather
conditions outside of the Boulder area on May 22, the date six tornadoes
touched down in Colorado. A message was circulated in the afternoon that
Boulder was under a tornado warning. However, many NCAR employees live
outside of Boulder in the communities to the north that were directly
impacted by these severe storms, yet no information was provided about the
magnitude of these systems. Primary methods for communicating such
information to the public are through television and radio broadcasts,
which many of us do not have immediate access to in the workplace. I would
like to know the feasibility of implementing a system similar to reverse
911 that notifies employees by phone when events such as these occur.

Answered on May 23, 2008


The questioner brings up an ongoing notification issue concerning how much
and how best to provide emergency information. We do have the capability to
put out an all-staff voicemail, similar to but not exactly a reverse 911. A
message is nested in each UCAR phone and the message light is activated.
However, it still requires the employee to notice the light and access
voicemail. We have used this on numerous occasions, though usually
associated with building closures.

In the incident with the tornadoes, we decided to utilize e-mail and the
UCAR Safety and Security hotline at ext. 1100. The information was released
as soon as we became aware and were able to get it posted. Typically, we
take our cue from local area emergency agencies. If they were to recommend
reverse 911 system activation, then we would have used our voicemail
system. There were no local recommendations and we didn’t activate our system.

In retrospect, I should have utilized our existing voicemail system. Every
emergency situation is a learning situation. In this case, I’ve learned to
expand my thinking to include notifications that go beyond just the local
area. I believe our current voicemail system is adequate for emergency
notifications; I just have to use what is available. Thanks for an
excellent suggestion.

—Steve Sadler, Director, Safety and Site Services