About 90 percent of presidential disaster declarations respond to conditions imposed by weather.
Obviously, communities are not storm-proof, but they can be better prepared for sever weather through education, planning, and awareness of the weather threat. In order to achieve a measure of readiness that will save lives, communities need help from weather experts. The StormReady program is a successful campaign that provides the information and advice communities need in such an organized fashion that the process is duplicated easily across communities and states.
In 1999, the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma partnered with the National Weather Service to obtain guidelines for safety of its citizens in weather emergencies which frequently include tornadoes and thunderstorms with hail. The local forecast office initiated a program called StormReady to meet that need. Since then, the program has gone national, and gives useful advice to local government leaders and emergency managers.
Since 1999, the NOAA and National Weather Service have had plenty of practice in storm-proofing communities. Currently, some 1,255 communities in the United States alone are in voluntary compliance with the guidelines and are certified as StormReady communities.
In order to get the word out to citizens about their opportunities to successfully survive extreme and hazardous weather events, the National Weather Service offers talks and presentations in local communities, promotes the use of NOAA Weather Radio where coverage exists, and offers free storm spotter training to citizens such as volunteer storm spotters, emergency operations center staff, and amateur radio operators.
There are a few important criteria for communities to be certified as "StormReady." Such criteria include a 24-hour warning point and emergency operations center, more than a single method of warning the public in the event of extreme weather, local monitoring of weather conditions, community awareness talks and seminars, and a formal plan for weather emergencies that includes training weather spotters and holding exercises to practice emergency response.
Among the communities that receive this certification include cities, counties, commercial sites, universities, Indian Nations, and even military and federal sites.
The certification process itself involves the formation of an advisory board consisting of National Weather Service warning coordinators and emergency managers from the local and state jurisdictions for the community applying to be certified. The board will review its application and visit the community to verify that all the elements of the criteria are present. When the board decides to approve the certification, a formal letter is issued to the community and StormReady signs will be placed along the community's major roadways to advise visitors of its readiness. The certification lasts for two years, after which communities must reapply. The advisory board has set a goal of evaluating and certifying 20 communities per year for the next five years.