Illinois Severe Weather Preparedness Week kicked off March 12, and the City of Naperville took that opportunity to fine tune their operation.
The Naperville Emergency Management Agency, or NEMA, has six volunteer units that help prepare the city during inclement conditions.
“When severe weather is moving into the area NEMA members come into the Emergency Operations Center start monitoring weather as it moves towards us.
They provide that intelligence and information to our first responders as well as utilities so they’re prepared knowing the risk and hazards as they approach the city,” said Dan Nelson, Coordinator for the Office of Emergency Management.
The city receives a direct radar feed from the National Weather Service and within seconds, the volunteers in the weather unit can spot any approaching threats.
“Rather than cities that are sitting in the blind which most cities are, and really have no idea what is coming to them, Naperville is unique as we have a whole weather operation here and everybody’s trained,” said Allan Fisher, weather unit NEMA volunteer.
Once the weather unit determines a legitimate hazard, the communications unit sends word out to a handful of city officials and spotters on the ground via a radio system, which was also being tested as a part of their preparedness plan.
“It’s always important to test because that’s the way we find the weak spots, that’s the way we learn. It’s not good to try to learn something during an actual emergency. The tests are very important as a learning situation and as a way to find out any bugs in the equipment or the systems,” said John Ashburn, officer in charge of the NEMA communications unit.
They also took this opportunity to test Naper Notify, a notification system that informs residents of significant events. If signed up, individuals would have received a message either by text, email, or voicemail during the drill.
“We’ve gotten a lot of feedback from our residents which we’re pleased about. City dispatch got about 130 calls and my office fielded about 200 calls so we’re very pleased and we’ve gotten a lot of good information from our citizens,” said Linda LaCloche, Communications Manager for the City of Naperville.
One final system checked the outdoor sirens which are stationed throughout town. Though effective, NEMA volunteers strongly suggest that everyone invest in a NOAA weather radio for use indoors.
The National Weather Service is hosting a severe weather spotter training class in Council Chambers on March 12.
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