Most importantly, many thanks go to the emergency managers who made the interviews possible. Additionally, we are grateful to the reviewers for their constructive input. Finally, Gabe Chan has done a tremendous job polishing the language of this article. Thank you! As to funding, Frauke Hoss was supported by an ERP fellowship of the German National Academic Foundation and Climate and Energy Decision Making (SES-0949710) through a cooperative agreement between the National Science Foundation and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU).
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In this paper, the term short-term river forecasts refers to river forecasts of the NWS Advanced Hydrological Prediction Service, such as the example shown in Fig. 1. These forecasts are not to be confused with flash flood forecasts or flash flood guidance products.
The job title for EMs differs between states. For example, it is “emergency management director” in Oklahoma and “emergency management coordinators” in Pennsylvania. In all cases, the EMs coordinate the emergency response of the jurisdiction they are responsible for.
The Pittsburgh region was chosen because the authors’ home institution is located there. Arkansas and Oklahoma were chosen because the river forecast center there has been archiving the forecasts for more than a decade. Additionally, the contact information for all local (not just county) emergency managers in Oklahoma was available online.
It seems to be the perception of the interviewed EMs that the increasing number of full-time emergency managers is also a result of the influx of federal money since the terrorist attacks in 2001 and the advent of the Department of Homeland Security [e.g., federal preparedness (nondisaster) grants].
In 1990, the IAEM concluded among other things that 39 U.S. states had “no state mandated minimum qualification requirements for local emergency management coordinators” (IAEM 1990, p. 7). While this is not representative anymore, it does shed a light on the circumstances under which some of today’s traditionally long-serving EMs have been appointed to their jobs.
EMI courses in the 2014 course catalog that have the words National Weather Service, forecast, or weather in their course description or that focus on flood response (in italics) (FEMA 2014):
E0102 Science of Disaster;
IS-0247.a Integrated Public Alert and Warning System;
IS-0271.a Anticipating Hazardous Weather and Community Risk, 2nd edition;
IS-323 Earthquake Mitigation Basics;
IS-0324.a Community Hurricane Preparedness;
G0270.3 Expedient Flood Training;
G0271 Hazardous Weather and Flood Preparedness;
G0272/L0098 Warning Coordination;
G0361 Flood Fight Operations;
G0363/L3011 Hurricane Readiness for Coastal Communities;
G0365 WEM: Partnerships for Creating and Maintaining Spotter Groups;
L0320/L0324 Hurricane Preparedness for Decision Makers; and
V0007 Virtual Tabletop Exercise: Flood.
The only EMI course in the 2014 course catalog that is jointly taught by Emergency Management and NWS staff (FEMA 2014) is G0365 WEM: Partnerships for Creating and Maintaining Spotter Groups.
Probabilistic forecasts have uncertainty associated with them, just as deterministic forecasts do. For example, like deterministic forecasts, probabilistic forecasts have more uncertainty in the tails due to data sparseness.
According to Nicholson (2006), the liability issues tend to be neglected in emergency management. Regulations differ between jurisdictions and type of employment (professional or volunteer). The legal background gets little attention in the education of EMs (Nicholson 2006), contributing to their risk-averse behavior (i.e., assuming the forecasts are correct at all times) in decision making.