Webster Parish is now recognized as “StormReady” by the National Weather Service.
Following a presentation at the Webster Parish Courthouse Thursday, Webster Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Director Jenny Reynolds says this status lets the community know there are programs in place preparing agencies and community members for storm events.
“It provides a list of preparedness activities, a wide range of public training and education to different equipment we have here,” she said. “Having radios as part of our school system and other critical systems and government agencies, all the way to having a 24-hour warning notification, emergency operations center.”
NWS officials say the StormReady community preparedness program uses a grassroots approach to help communities develop plans to handle local severe weather and flooding threats. The program is voluntary and provides communities with clear-cut advice from their local NWS forecast office and state and local emergency managers.
Reynolds says when a parish meets the criteria, they can apply for the StormReady status, and one of the benefits to the community is business and newcomers look for these types of recognitions, she said.
“It shows there are existing systems,” she said. “For example, if a company is dealing with some material that may result in accidents or emergency situations, communities that have statuses such as this one are appealing, because they know there are programs in place they can tie right into and operate better as an industry.”
From the community perspective, it offers training and programs, such as classes on SkyWarn, where community members can participate and become active spotters and a certified part of the NWS system.
“Northwest Louisiana experiences very active severe weather episodes throughout the year,” Mario Valverde, meteorologist-in-charge of the Shreveport NWS Office, said. “Due to our geographic location, potentially deadly weather could impact Webster Parish on any given day. In order to prepare for severe weather and keep its citizens safe, parish officials have partnered with NWS to meet the criteria required by the StormReady program.”
To be recognized as StormReady, a community or university must establish a 24-hour warning point and emergency operations center; have more than one way to receive severe weather forecasts and warnings and to alert the public; create a system that monitors local weather conditions; promote the importance of public readiness through community seminars; and develop a formal hazardous weather plan, which involves training severe weather spotters and holding emergency exercises.
Webster Parish is now one of more than 2,500 communities that are StormReady, Bill Parker, warning coordination meteorologist said.
StormReady communities are better prepared to save lives from the onslaught of severe weather through better planning, education and awareness. No community is storm proof, but StormReady can help communities save lives.
Reynolds expressed her appreciation to the NWS as they assist in providing real-time information that helps emergency personnel during severe storm events. She says their relationship is beneficial for both parties.
“Our partnership is strong, and having strong working relationships is half the battle during emergency situations,” she said.
The StormReady recognition will expire in three years, after which the parish will go through a renewal process.