Should Emergency Personal be Skywarn trained

Mar 12, 2004
after reading certain posts,it seems to me that anyone certified in Emergency respond,seems to be calling in false reports.i know that they are under pressure before,during and after the event,but so are we.
but when they start to call in weather reports stating that they see funnel clouds or tornados,they have no idea that civilians are listening in on them.if they report one of the two,then they just started a snowball effect in getting the public in a uproar.
our C.P.O.trys his hardest to put us in that area because he helps to determine if the AIR HORNS should blare to worn the community of the oncoming.but if he has to rely on Emergency personal reports,then the whole county would be under the red flag.
there is only three out of our entire county in emergency respond that is Skywarn,and even then two are V.F.D.
wouldn't it be nice to move into a town and see Skywarn stickers on Emergency vehicles knowing that the town is weather wise to?
In this part of the country (Oklahoma) NWS Spotter trained people are about a "dime a dozen". That being said, most of them are older folks with failing eyesight or younger "kids" who don't have the experience under the belt yet. We get a great many false reports in this area and there's a couple of smaller towns that the sirens blare about the time a dark cloud shifts position.

There are a few though that have the training and experience to help keep the excitement down to a dull roar and for the most part, all the Skywarn and EOC folks do a pretty good job.

Of course, I would bet a lot of them would say the same about me! Since I'm radio and there's only one other Radio station in the area that reports live weather, we get accused of "inflating" the situation. I know that I report what I see. Not what I think I see. If I don't know, then I don't report it. I am absolutely sure the other guy does the same. Yes, there are the "Scanner people" out there. I know that most Emergency Personnel are fully aware that they are being listened to. That's the nature of life out here. So we all get used to it.

The Police generally don't call in sightings unless they know what they are looking at. The Fire Department is usually pretty well busy cleaning up the various car accidents. The Sheriff's Deputies are generally out and about, but keep pretty much to themselves as there are plenty of spotters out there too.
Yes they should be (too many sheriffnadoes) but it'll never happen unless the police chief for that department requires it. VERY rarely (but occasionally) will I find public safety employees at a training seminar - and usually it's the FF side.
Well, is there a downside to training emergency personnel besides the obvious training costs associated with it? I think it's something very valuable to learn, especially for emergency personnel.
There really isn't any downside whatsoever to training all emergency personnel in recognizing significant severe weather. At the local Skywarn spotter classes, it is common to see police and fire personnel attending. The classes are free to everyone who attends. Oddly enough, I can't ever remember seeing emergency medical service providers at these training classes.

But yes, it is critical for ANYONE who is responsible for making a severe weather report which is to be filtered to the public aware of what to look for and report. There really should be more of a drive by the NWS to have more emergency services personnel attend at least a basic Skywarn class, especially in tornado-prone regions like the American midwest and plains. However, I've noticed many of the local emergency providers hang back and let the Skywarn volunteers do what they were trained to do. I've even had police ask me what was happening with the weather. I think in most situations where police are calling in severe weather events it is because no Skywarn personnel are available or in the area.
yes,the training is free which i don't get.people loves stuff that is free.and you would think that with all the severe weather events that has happened,you would think people would show up and learn.
IMO...if you do want to help keep your family safe and help the community,then you SHOULD show up and learn (even if it is only for the basic training).
yes,the training is free which i don't get.people loves stuff that is free.and you would think that with all the severe weather events that has happened,you would think people would show up and learn.
IMO...if you do want to help keep your family safe and help the community,then you SHOULD show up and learn (even if it is only for the basic training).

The problem is that with so much required training in the fields, that most either do not or can not take the time for another class that is not even in their job descriptions. If a dept takes on the responsibility to act as spotters, then they should. But in other cases, it should not be required, as you would have a bunch of disinterested people show up, not really pay attention, and learn nothing. The exception to this is Emergency Management personnal. It makes no sense for this group not to be.

Trust volunteer fire depts, it is hard enough to get personnal to show up for manditory fire training.
Absolutely not. There's already enough people responsible for reporting who don't know what they're looking at; "training" emergency personel would only compound the problem. Let the emergency personel do their job, which takes place after the tornado/severe weather. The spotters/chasers will take care of the reporting.
storm spotter training

I see nothing wrong with having as many emergency services personnel trained in storm spotting as you can get, the more trained eyes the better! Storm spotter training classes generally only last around 2 hours (once per year) so I can't see why finding time to get to a spotter training class would be a real problem. Maybe many emergency personnel just dont think that severe weather phenomena such as tornados are that big of a threat (wrightly or wrongly) thus not warranting a trip to a spotter training class? Tornados are RARE events, even though they are shown on TWC etc. many times now during a given year.
"The spotters/chasers will take care of the reporting."

That may be the case in your area - but in the Great Lakes when the police officer tells his dispatcher he thinks there is a tornado, the sirens are sounded. That's not good. The only fix is to get them trained, but they think that since they work in the field they don't need training to know what a tornado looks like. Hence the phrase "sheriffnado"

- Rob
I agree with Rob Dale, that things should depend on your geographical location. Here in the Great Lakes, we get reports of baseball sized hail, large tornadoes, etc. all from the police -- Most of which never verify. But, things being as they are, I don't think any Skywarn class would help the officers here in MI (my cousin would be included in that) :lol:
It seems like at least 2/3 of the severe weather reports I see in the LSRs are made by police/sheriff/fire dept/other emergency personnel....and if they are the ones who are making the majority of the reports, then yes they definitely should be trained.
I agree with you, Shane, that in an ideal world spotters and chasers would always be there to make the calls. But that is most certainly not always the case. In my EOC we have a limited number of spotters, and there have been several times when severe weather entered the area that spotters were simply not available.

The fact is, life is never ideal, and police and firefighters have and will continue to call in reports of severe weather. All I'm saying is that if reports are being called in, doesn't it make sense that they are called in by trained personnel?

These classes are, as someone mentioned, only held once a year. Surely it would not be too much to ask that emergency services providers be trained in this area. In Oklahoma (and I assume most everywhere), police trainees undergo training in firearms, emergency vehicle operating, law, hazmat, fire extinguisher use, basic lifesaving medical techniques, water rescue, etc., etc., etc. It is the most basic common sense to add basic severe weather spotting to this list in tornado-prone areas.

The more I think about it, I'm wondering why the hell AREN'T cops and firefighters trained to spot severe weather? I wonder how many people here object to this idea because they feel it will steal the thunder and glory away from spotters and chasers? Until some incredibly advanced rader is invented, spotters (and even chasers) will be a ground-truth necessity. I don't see the position eroded and diminished by a combined effort with those providing emergency services. I feel it may even bring the two groups closer together because they will share some common ground.
I'm not disagreeing with you guys on the philosohpy of having more trained eyes, I'm just pointing out the very real fact that trained spotters/EOCs/whatever are not going to be efficient spotters out of the box just because they have a piece of paper declaring they will.

Maybe this is the best we can do, but IMO it's more dangerous in the long run having even more (truthfully) untrained eyes watching the skies, and consequently making more false reports, which then cause people to second-guess the next time it happens, and this adds even more fuel to the already-burning-out-of-control fire that is complacency.

You mentioned this system should cater to individual geographical areas; this is perhaps the biggest problem of all. You just don't get many opportunities to learn in a lot of places, simply because there isn't a lot of severe weather. This isn't the fault of anyone, just Nature.
" I'm wondering why the hell AREN'T cops and firefighters trained to spot severe weather?"

Because the cops don't care... They "know" what a tornado looks like and don't need to sit in a classroom for 2 hours seeing videos.

NWS will even make separate "public safety only" talks around their schedule, but it rarely is requested.

I don't think Shane is saying that we need to check ID's at the door and reject all cops, but in any case even if that did happen it wouldn't result in too many people being blocked.

- Rob
don't get me wrong,i agree that it shouldn't be mandatory for them to take the classes.
HOWEVER,if they do plan to make a report that they see a funnel cloud,or a tornado,that it is in fact what it is.
if some of you chasers have ever been down here to E.Tx,then you know that we are surrounded by pinetrees.spotting with these in your way is pretty hard on some of these FM roads.i don't want to be pointing fingers here,but our S.O.around here are on those roads and are the worst about calling in false reports.i have yet to hear on my scanner to hear an ambulance driver,or DPS officer to call in on my scanner.i don't want to rule out the local law enforcement,but on times,they do call in.
our C.P.O. trys his hardest to put spotters in that area so that they can back up that officers report.
bottom line,if someone in the emergency field is going to call in a report,they better know what they are calling in,because if they cry wolf one to many times,then the public is not going to head the next cry and end up dying because of it.
Like some of the other posts, my concern is the needs of the situation. In areas where training these types of people to also be spotters is needed, then that decision can be made locally. In other places, like central Oklahoma (where there's always a live view on TV anyway), it's probably not as useful.

I would prefer to think that a police officer in Oklahoma City will spend that time training on things that will more directly protect their lives and the lives of the public.
I would prefer to think that a police officer in Oklahoma City will spend that time training on things that will more directly protect their lives and the lives of the public.

Hence clear justification for why training should be offered, as police often engage in road blocks for tornadoes expected to cross highways. Do you want the road blocked for a false report? Further, they have excellent communication systems, are able to communicate easily with emergency managers to know where to send emergency response vehicles as quickly as possible, and can warn at risk folks ahead of the tornado. They don't want to have to wait for a report from a chaser to go to the NWS and then have to dispatch a police unit to see if the report is accurate.

Chasers may provide redundant information on big days, and are probably more helpful to NWS folks than police reports, but during nocturnal events, when most chasers are looking for a Perkins, police may be the only folks still watching - and you'd want them to have at least a basic understanding of what they are watching for.

I'd also add that in smaller communities the locals will often get 'house calls' by police in advance of tornadoes when possible - which probably wouldn't happen if they didn't know where the tornadoes were and how to keep themselves, and others, out of harms way.

Re: storm spotter training

Originally posted by Craig Maire II
Storm spotter training classes generally only last around 2 hours (once per year) so I can't see why finding time to get to a spotter training class would be a real problem. Maybe many emergency personnel just dont think that severe weather phenomena such as tornados are that big of a threat (wrightly or wrongly) thus not warranting a trip to a spotter training class?

I'd imply from your statement that you aren't an EMS person...especially one who is licensed/certified at more than one level. My wife is an RN and a Paramedic. At this point, she has to attend 30 hours per year of re-certification credit (at the cost of from 4-8 hours clock time for each recert hour) annually for her RN, and 60 hours every two yeas for her Paramedic (at the cost of 2-4 hours clock time per recert hour). In addition, she has class every two years in each of the following: CPR (6 clock hours), CPR Instructor (16 clock hours), ACLS (16 clock hours, I believe), PALS, (16 clock hours, I believe), and a couple of other acronyms she needs for her jobs.

Add to this the fact that she works nights at the hospital, and unless she's already working when her service hosts a spotter training class, she will probably miss it. She wants to get it every year, but averages once every three years.

You'd think she'd be the exception...but there are a lot more dual- (or triple-) certified people in the emergency medical service than most people realize. Each certification/licensure requires its own continuing education--very few of them cross over. And especially in small towns, they work EMS part-time, and something that pays a real wage full-time. Same as most small town fire departments.

IMO, the problem is not a lack of desire on the part of emergency responders. The biggest part of it is the evening schedule of the classes, which is designed for the general public. That means (in the case of Law Enforcement and full-time departments) pretty much all of second shift and night shift (7p-7a) is shut out, and those are the people working most frequently when storms hit.

Here at the TV station, when it comes to training, we have to have between 2 and 5 meetings on each topic before everyone is able to come. Even with two NWS spotting classes this year at the TV station, several of us will be going to KFDI for theirs next week, because we can't make either time here. And it wouldn't surprise me to see one or two people from KFDI at ours, like they were last year. And one or the other of us will have to send somebody to one of the public classes becase they still can't make it to one of ours.

IMO, the NWS WCMs don't have the time to do multiple classes in every county--at least not here. They're already out 3-4 nights a week for two months straight. On any given evening, there may be 4 spotter classes within 50 miles of my house. But there is only one daytime class all season that I'm aware of, any time from Feb 10 to May 1.

So while one key to increased outreach is having more times, there aren't enough trainers to have very many more times. I think it would be good if public emergency response agencies would get a person within their own organization trained each year in an NWS "train-the-trainer" session and hold their own classes. But then you do have training costs...paying the trainer during their training and the classes, paying the personnel to attend the classes (which you'd likely have to do if your agency is actually instructing the class and requiring attendance).

So we get by with having whoever volunteers to go to the free community training class. It's the best we have at the moment :)
Yes! We get more reports from fire/police than from the public. Some are good enough to be of use. Others make no sense. Main problem is we do not have direct contact so we only know what EOC passes on. Since training has been held more and more reports are useable. Each area is different though. Here flooding is the main problem.
One of the requirements, at least here in Turner County South Dakota, is that in order to maintain your job as a law enforcement officer, fire fighter, or ems tech you are required to attend a spotter class every two years to refine your skills.
Absolutely!! ANYONE that is going to be out spotting storms and making reports on them should be at least SKYWARN trained. I don't care who you are, or who your with! Would you expect to go fight fires, or criminals, or run EMS calls without some training? No. They shouldn't expect to be out spotting storms without some training as well.

There is one local law enforcement group that I have listened to when chasing in my area. Not a single one of them has the slightest CLUE even where the area of tornadic interest on the storm might be. I have listened to them a lot. One particular day a couple of years ago a nasty tornadic storm crossed this particular county and took 4 hours to do so. I heard them after a couple of hours tell the officers out there to stop one of the hundreds of chasers running around and see if they could get some help from the chasers.

If your gonna be making reports that affect the public, you need to KNOW what your looking at!
Training Emergency Personnel

I have given a couple talks to American Red Cross chapters on what to look for and listen for during night time operations, when the hazards are the greatest.
I have found them to be extremely receptive, and was also surprised to discover that none of their personnel had equipment for picking up weather warnings/spotter nets, etc while out in the field.
Teaching them how to be aware of hidden flash floods, look for power flashes, listen to and perhaps learn how to participate in spotter nets, and be aware of certain cloud formations illumned by lightning in my view is very important and one day could help save lives.
You can add my vote in favor of emergency personnel going through Skywarn spotter training. I have two reasons:

1. They can prepare to perform their duties by recognizing for themselves when and where severe weather has or could hit.

2. They have the communication systems to pass on reports, and they often talk directly to the people that sound the sirens.

I don't believe that all emergency personnel should be involved in spotting all the time. Whenever one does see something, that person should be able to accurately report what was seen.

I realize that many emergency personnel have heavy load of continuing education classes to take, and attending an additional class could be a burden. An alternative would be to view the TESSA training video.

I do have some issues with how I have seen Skywarn training conducted, but I will save that for another thread.