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The Not-So-Marginal Value of Weather Warning Systems

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  • 1 RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, California
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Abstract

Knowing the benefits of creating or expanding programs is important for determining optimal levels of investment. Yet estimates of the benefits of weather warning systems are sparse, perhaps because there is often no clear counterfactual of how individuals would have fared without a particular warning system. This paper enriches the literature and informs policy decisions by using conditional variation in the initial broadcast dates of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Weather Radio All Hazards (NWR) transmitters to produce both cross-sectional and fixed effects estimates of the causal impact of expanding the NWR transmitter network. Results suggest that from 1970 to 2014, expanding NWR coverage to a previously untreated county was associated with an almost 40% reduction in injuries and as much as a 50% reduction in fatalities. The benefits associated with further expansion of this system have likely declined over time.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: https://doi.org/10.1175/WCAS-D-16-0093.s1.

© 2018 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Benjamin M. Miller, benjamin_miller@rand.org

Abstract

Knowing the benefits of creating or expanding programs is important for determining optimal levels of investment. Yet estimates of the benefits of weather warning systems are sparse, perhaps because there is often no clear counterfactual of how individuals would have fared without a particular warning system. This paper enriches the literature and informs policy decisions by using conditional variation in the initial broadcast dates of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Weather Radio All Hazards (NWR) transmitters to produce both cross-sectional and fixed effects estimates of the causal impact of expanding the NWR transmitter network. Results suggest that from 1970 to 2014, expanding NWR coverage to a previously untreated county was associated with an almost 40% reduction in injuries and as much as a 50% reduction in fatalities. The benefits associated with further expansion of this system have likely declined over time.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: https://doi.org/10.1175/WCAS-D-16-0093.s1.

© 2018 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Benjamin M. Miller, benjamin_miller@rand.org

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