Critical Skills Needed Within The NWS Fire Weather Program Eli Jacks Chief, Fire and Public Weather Services Branch NOAA’s National Weather Service 23 September 2009 Outline NOAA’s fire weather services Critical fire weather forecaster skills Current skill gaps and shortages Current efforts at addressing gaps Recommendations NOAA’s Fire Weather Services First “Fire Weather Forecast” 1914 First Incident Meteorologist 1916 Routine and on-site services Partners: - US Forest Service - Bureau of Land Management - Bureau of Indian Affairs - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - National Park Service - Nat. Assoc. of State Foresters - FEMA, DOD, US Coast Guard - International Partners (Australia) Importance of Fire Weather NOAA’s Site-Specific Fire Weather Services • NOAA’s “Spot forecasts” support: - Wild Fire Suppression - Prescribed fire ops. • We average 17,000 “Spot Forecasts” annually • 19,000 forecasts in 2008 NOAA’s National Fire Weather Services No Fire Weather Forecast Issued • National Fire Weather Watch/Red Flag Warning Program. • Fire Weather Planning Forecasts. • Over 30,000 Red Flag Warnings and Fire Weather Watches issued annually. NOAA’s On-Site Fire Weather Services Incident Meteorologists: NOAA’s on-site fire weather forecasters! Extensive training in microscale and mesoscale meteorology Forecasts used to plan NIFC Incident Team and resource placement Essential part of an Interagency fire management team Dependent on mobile technology and meso/micro- scale research improvements. Range of IMET Services Mt. Rushmore Fireworks Democratic/Republican National Conventions Columbia Shuttle Recovery Texas/Oklahoma Started in December… IMETs there for 9 months! Katrina Response IMETs present for 3 months Large Fire Support Cave Creek Fire Edge Fire Selendang Ayu Day Fire Oil Spill… Dutch Harbor Critical Skills Needed For Fire Weather Develop and Maintain Customer Awareness/Partnerships Requires coordination for policy, training, tactical planning Assess the Fire Environment Know how to apply weather at all scales to fire environment Apply knowledge of fuels & topography to fire environment Warning Decision Making Possess situational awareness based on knowledge of meteorology, policy, user requirements Provide Fire Weather Products and Services Understand product policy and partner needs to issue timely and useful fire weather forecasts, watches and warnings Skill Gaps and Shortages Extend IMET knowledge of partnering agencies requirements to entire NWS forecast workforce - A sensitivity to land management operations is key to excellent service A clear and comprehensive fire weather curriculum for the study of the fire environment, fire weather and fire behavior, tailored for meteorologists - Existing distance learning training is incomplete and not well organized Skill Gaps and Shortages Leadership and situational awareness - Within the office and at the fire scene Expertise in delivering briefings to partners in terms they can understand and meet their specific needs - Social science reveals that different users have different needs and focus Culture change needed to foster a forecaster mindset as being the “front-line service provider” - Impart a bias towards “decision support” Current Fire Weather Training Fire Weather Forecaster Minimum Journey-level forecaster (4 years experience) 75+ hours coursework Introductory Fire Weather (all scales) Introductory Fire Behavior IMETs (additional) 175+ hours coursework Intermediate Fire Weather (all scales) Intermediate Fire Behavior (S-390, S-491) Safety Incident Command System (FEMA) HAZMAT (USCG, NOAA OAR and FEMA) “Internship” on fires – 2 weeks minimum Yearly refresher/recertification workshop Training Gap Mitigation Effort: COMET Curriculum Development COMET = Cooperative Program for Operational Meteorology, Education and Training A “Fire Weather Training Working Group” met in Boulder to outline a fire weather training curriculum - Consisted of IMETs, Fire Weather Forecasters, COMET staff, NWS Training Identification of specific, sequential training needs in 2009-10 will lead to clear course development requirements development in FY 11 Recommendations 0 - 2 years: Continue to support Fire Weather/COMET curriculum development project and begin development 2 – 5 years: Utilizing fire weather operations funding, continue prioritized development of curriculum elements 5 years and beyond: Create an “All Hazards University”: Integrate across multiple fire and non-fire agencies to leverage limited training budgets into a comprehensive curriculum for gov’t meteorologists and emergency responders Summary Fire Weather well on its way to rounding out critical skills and filling gaps/shortages. High quality distance learning is under development. Critical gaps are fulfilling an “all hazards” role and changing the corporate culture from one of “come and get it” to “how can I serve you?” The key to future training and development of meteorologists is to integrate and cross-train. Our missions overlap, so should our training. Questions?
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