The Weather-Ready Nation (WRN) Ambassador™ Initiative is designed to build partnerships across the Weather, Water, and Climate Enterprise and to leverage the community reach of partners in the public, private, academic, and nongovernmental organization (NGO) sectors. As of November 2020, the WRN Ambassador Initiative has more than 11,000 members, with Ambassadors in every U.S. state and territory. A wide assortment of businesses, government entities, school organizations, and nonprofit groups have signed up to be members of the WRN community.
The purpose of this study is to identify options for strengthening the Weather-Ready Nation Ambassadors Initiative while holding true to its original intention: building a more resilient, responsive, and prepared American public. The resulting options include those that would seek to enhance community engagement, training modules and educational programs for Ambassadors, public service campaigns, and means for increasing involvement of end users or members of the communities served by the Enterprise. Some of the options identified were presented in an online survey in the spring of 2020. The options included in the public survey were the Safe Place Selfie Challenge; Training Webinars; WRN Messaging via Marketing Materials, Flyers, Pamphlets, etc.; Joint Events between WRN Ambassadors and Impact-Based Decision Support Services (IDSS) Core Partners; and Expansion and Integration of AMS Local Chapter Events.
The results of the survey show that actively engaged WRN Ambassadors view all five options as both relevant and helpful to the WRN Initiative. In particular, Ambassadors showed a high level of interest in the production of training webinars for Ambassadors, the holding of joint events between Ambassadors and IDSS Core Partners, increased integration of WRN messaging by Ambassadors, and the expansion of AMS Local Chapter events to include partnership with WRN Ambassadors. In addition, the survey responses show that, in the opinion of the survey participants, the above options are viable and would further the goals of the WRN Ambassadors Initiative.
In the spring of 2020, the survey was distributed online and directed to current WRN Ambassadors with the intent of gauging interest in the options presented, and to solicit the survey participants’ opinion on the feasibility of each option from an implementation standpoint. The instructions in the online survey made it clear to participants that the options were not being presented in any particular order, or with any ranking of importance. The online survey garnered 50 responses from members of WRN Ambassadors organizations. Participants assessed each option for value and benefit to the Initiative. Every one of the five options was well received, with each option receiving more than 50% approval. A couple options notably received nearly 100% approval, with participants believing that joint events between WRN Ambassadors and IDSS Core Partners, along with expansion and integration of AMS Local Chapter events, would be “somewhat useful” or “extremely useful” to further the goals of the Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador Initiative.
The five options in the survey were identified through interviews with more than a dozen NOAA employees and NWS partners. All of the people interviewed for this study have a high level of familiarity with the WRN Ambassadors Initiative; some are also members of WRN Ambassadors organizations.
Several other options were identified during the interview process that were not included in the survey. They include designating Weather-Ready Nation “Block Watch Captains”; compiling a formal WRN Certification Program; expanding IDSS Core Partner “Tabletop Exercises” to a broader number of entities, including some WRN Ambassadors; encouraging Ambassadors to get certified as StormReady™ by the National Weather Service; encouraging Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAIDs) and Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAIDs) to consolidate their efforts with Weather-Ready Nation as a point of synergy; and increased outreach to the community via the AMS Weather Band, which launched in the fall of 2020. These options were primarily left off the survey for brevity, in order to have a shorter and more attractive survey. Some of the additional options also require further investigation before being presented in a public survey format. Even so, these options are presented in this study, with any available background and information on the advantages and drawbacks that these options might present for the Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador Initiative.
The resulting options, from the survey and otherwise, can be grouped into two categories. Each category represents a different direction the Initiative could take. One category of options would define WRN Ambassadors as members of an awareness campaign, helping build resilience through public safety messaging and the like. The other category of options, if implemented, would result in WRN Ambassadors becoming bona fide force multipliers for the National Weather Service, working together in the mission to protect American lives and property. Options from each category may ultimately be in the interest of NWS and NOAA if the Initiative continues to grow in numbers and scope.
NOAA’s vision for Weather-Ready Nation is a network of Ambassadors that are woven into the fabric of local, regional, and national communities of decision-makers: “addressing and ensuring awareness, preparedness, and responsiveness to extreme weather, water, and climate events, an essential step for public safety, mitigating property loss, and accelerating recovery efforts after the event (Uccellini and Ten Hoeve 2019).
WRN Ambassadors are expected to “act as force multipliers, not only serving as an example themselves, but also engaging others to know their risk and support informed decision-making.”
Upon signing up, Weather-Ready Nation Ambassadors are asked to make a commitment to be good stewards of NOAA information in their respective communities. However, since Ambassadors do not have a mandate to follow through on that commitment (NWS 2021a), the possibility exists that some Ambassadors will sign up and fail to follow through, while still displaying the WRN logo and purporting to be a part of the Initiative. The low bar for entry has been deemed necessary for Weather-Ready Nation to have a large reach and scope, but this does open up the possibility that the WRN designation will not bring any value to the many millions of Americans who rely on NOAA information every day.
The author recognizes that other options may exist that were not identified during the course of this study. The options presented in this study are for informative purposes, and are not intended in any way to be a policy prescription or a suggestion for any specific direction to be taken by NOAA or any other organization.