National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce
Lloyd Colston, City of Altus, Oklahoma

NOAA’s Weather-Ready Nation initiative is about building community resilience in the face of increasing vulnerability to extreme weather and water events.

In People of Weather-Ready Nation, we sit down with some of the people responsible for building a Weather-Ready Nation. We recently talked to Lloyd Colston, Director of Emergency Management for Altus, Oklahoma.

1. What does a Weather-Ready Nation mean to you?

A Weather-Ready Nation would have residents who are weather-aware and weather-prepared. The Weather-Ready individual and family would have at least three ways to get weather information and would be 72-hour prepared for any disaster. A Weather-Ready Citizen would be engaged in their local community to insure that their neighbors are resilient and involved in post-event recovery. The Weather-Ready soul would partner with their local emergency management office to support the local Skywarn program and give reports, using Skywarn criteria, to the local office and the National Weather Service office that serves their community.

2. How are you helping to build a Weather-Ready Nation?

Using social media, including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, we attempt to engage the citizen where they are. For example, using the Twitter hashtag #AltusOK, we have demonstrated over 35K impressions over a two-day period. Most of the information contains weather data that is actionable - weather watches and warnings and tips regarding weather awareness.

Accounts such as @WX5EM for Oklahoma and @VOIPWXnet for Skywarn and hurricanes offer situational awareness to a variety of customers. In addition, Humanity Road @humanityroad and the Oklahoma Virtual Operations Support Team @OKVOST supports the Weather-Ready Nation with situational awareness information from the local emergency management office, the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center.

3. What is the biggest challenge you see in making the nation ready, responsive, and resilient to extreme events?

From the Skywarn program initiated in the 1970s, the Nation has been challenged to be weather aware for decades. The biggest challenge has been, through these years, reaching the citizen with information they need to make appropriate choices. Today we have many information channels going out, rather than the two CONELRAD channels in "Civil Defense" days. Reaching the citizen across many communications platforms in terms they understand remains the single most important challenge we continue to face.

The Integrated Public Alert and Warning System is an example. Even that good work will not reach a resident listening to an MP3 player while running a vacuum in the basement of their home. We can do better by working together to make sure the nation IS weather-aware and weather-prepared.


Lloyd Colston is an emergency management professional with interests in amateur radio, social media, and crisis communication. He serves the City of Altus as the emergency management director, the American Radio Relay League as the Oklahoma Section Manager and the Virtual Emergency Management Association as Vice-President.