By ZACK OWENSBYThe Wilson Post
If you have a passion for weather and would like being involved in the fast-paced planning of emergency notification, the WEMA Weather Operations would love to have you volunteer.
When a severe storm is approaching, WEMA Weather Operations Leader Chris Andrews sends out calls to volunteers who respond to WEMA Headquarters on Oak Street in Lebanon.
“It’s really amazing when I send out those pages, everybody else is heading indoors, but out volunteers get out and get here at any time of the day or night,” Andrews said. “It’s incredible what they do.”
Andrews said weather team volunteers get general and WEMA-specific emergency training for free to educate them on how to serve Wilson County residents in the event of severe weather.
The hub of activity during a weather event is a single room at WEMA with a conference table and a whiteboard, filled with at least eight computer screens which measure and monitor wind speeds, humidity, barometric pressure, etc., and controls for the county’s emergency alert sirens and emergency communications devices located with WEMA officers and about two dozen of the county’s largest businesses.
Volunteers are taught how to research, collect and interpret computer-based and real-world weather data, as well as how to operate all of the different notification methods that go out all across Wilson County.
“When a storm is approaching or in full force, this room is chaos,” Andrews laughed. “You’re welcome to come by and see how it works, but I’ll go ahead and tell you now that you will be put to work. So at least keep a dry-erase marker in your hand.”
WEMA monitors several areas of the county more closely than others, including the water level indicators located all throughout Lebanon along Sinking Creek.
“There are people here who have been here so long that they have it down to a science that when the water level rises in places, you better get on the phone and let people know that it’s about to start flooding somewhere else,” Andrews said.
However, one of the most difficult decisions to make is when to make an emergency notification, usually the last component of an ongoing training program that a volunteer will learn.
But that is just the kind of atmosphere some people thrive in, and if you are one of them, consider volunteering, Andrews said.
WEMA is a member of the SKYWARN Training Program, which teaches volunteers the basics of thunderstorm development, fundamentals of storm structure, identifying potential severe weather features, information to report, how to report information and basic severe weather safety.
And they take their volunteer training seriously. In a few weeks, Andrews is traveling to Oklahoma with several of the volunteers to a severe weather conference in the heart of “Tornado Alley.” The trip is paid for through allocations in WEMA’s emergency preparation budget.
“Volunteers are essential at a small agency with a budget as tight as ours,” Andrews said. “They make this whole place work seamlessly. We couldn’t do it without them.”
WEMA will be sponsoring a Storm Spotter Training on Sunday, March 7 from 10 a.m. until noon at the WEMA Training Center across the street from WEMA Headquarters at 110 Oak Street in Lebanon.
To register for the event or for more information on the Weather Operations Team, visit www.wilsonweather.net.
Staff Writer Zack Owensby may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.