As we head into spring, one factor can greatly affect the likelihood of facing an emergency: the weather. To help one become more prepared, one could benefit from learning the skills of weather observation and weather prediction. To do this, one need not have expensive equipment. It just mainly takes a keen eye and a willingness to learn some new information and a few skills.
One thing that interested individuals could do to learn about the weather is to participate in a training class for SKYWARN.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with SKYWARN, it is a program of the National Weather Service in the United States. There are also similar programs in Canada (Canwarn) and Europe (SkyWarn UK and Skywarn Europe.) The purpose of these programs is to train willing volunteers to help observe and report severe weather events. Why would they wish to do so? It is because that even with the most recent technologies such as satellite imagery and Doppler radar, it is with the help of eyewitness reports that the NWS can know of the true severity of the weather, especially when it may only affect a relatively small area. The National Weather Service often relies on reports from these trained “storm spotters” to decide if any storm related watches or warnings may need to be issued. They also use these reports to piece together the type and severity of weather that may have caused certain damage after a storm.
As for the prepper, the training one would receive from becoming a trained storm spotter could come in handy. As part of the training, the NWS instructs on the development of storm cells and what signs to look for when watching for potential severe weather. It also instructs the trainees on how to properly report on what they see. These reports cover such phenomena as the size of hail stones, tornado development, or even urban flooding. One big advantage to the SKYWARN program is its use of amateur radio nets to gather storm spotter reports. If one was a licensed ham radio operator, one could participate in these nets as they gather and report on weather conditions from different locations. Even if one was not participating in the net, one could listen in on what weather conditions were occurring, and where, in real time. Often one could get a better picture sooner of what was exactly going on from listening to these nets rather just than relying on the weather reports from the media.
So what does it take to become SKYWARN trained? It costs nothing to participate in the training, and it only requires a few hours of your time. The first step would be to find the local chapter of SKYWARN for your area. The website http://www.nws.noaa.gov/skywarn/skywarn.htm will direct you to groups in the U.S. The second step is to find a class time and place that would work for you and register. This is the time of year to do it! Finally, attendance of the class is all that is required. Also, for those who are interested in additional training, there are more advanced classes available, and they are also free. I, myself, have been to both the basic and the advanced training, and I feel that I have learned a lot from them. I am also a licensed ham, so I am able to participate in the local SKYWARN nets, and I have found those personally useful as well. You might ask “What if I am not a ham radio operator?” That is not an issue because SKYWARN will take reports from spotters by other methods also, so that should not be a reason for not participating. The only other requirement is that you retrain every few years as determined by your local SKYWARN group. It’s all that easy.
So, as a prepper, I ask “What would you have to lose?” You would get free training, and you would gain knowledge and skills that would help you become more prepared for only a few hours of your time. In my honest opinion, it’s worth it. Go do it.
For more information go to:
For more information for those in Canada and the UK:
SkyWarn UK: http://www.skywarn.org.uk/