To Skywarn and Beyond!

I’ll be upfront and honest and say that I’m not really a fan of “Emergency Communications” or as the ARRL would like to now call it, “Public Service Communications”. It’s just not my cup of tea. I think that SOME of the people that are involved are using emcomm/skywarn as a way to flex their egos and/or as an outlet to their dreams of being a public safety official such as police, fire or EMT for whatever reason.  I don’t want to discourage anyone and there are hams who are really care about their community and help out without getting caught up in the whacker fest. But that’s what’s great about ham radio, there is so many aspects to it that you can dislike an entire aspect but yet still enjoy the hobby overall. Anyways, I’m not hear to harp about emcomm.

 Tasting the Skywarn Kool-Aid

I’ve decided to participate in a Skywarn class that was presented by the NWS (National Weather Service) of Taunton MA. I’m not exactly sure exactly why I went. I guess I wanted to see what it was all about and I was able to get out of the house that night so
why not.

Like everything else, I arrived to the class early so I got to see who was showing up. I recognized a lot of the people that showed up to the class as local area hams which I was expecting to see. However I also saw a lot of people that I’ve never seen before and I’ve seen a a bunch of new hams which is great to see them being active in parts of the hobby. Hopefully they don’t drink too much of the emcomm kool-aid.

The Class

I went to the class expecting that I was going to fall asleep or not be really interested about weather or skywarn because I wasn’t really interested.  I was expecting the class to be dull and boring with slides of clouds after clouds with the sleep inducing monotone voice over of the likes of Ben Stein.

However once the class started, I actually became very interested. The hosts were lively and you can see their passion about weather. It wasn’t going to be a snooze fest. I’ve learned quite a bit about weather that applies to more than just skywarn and amateur radio.

A Visit From The Local Media

One person I instantly noticed in attendance was Brain Lapis, the Chief Meteorologist from WWLP  TV 22. I’m not sure if he was asked to show or he showed up on his own intuition. Either way it was great to see a local meteorologist in attendance. I gained a little more respect for not only Lapis but for WWLP overall as I didn’t directly notice anyone else from the media there.

I didn’t know but they even did a little story on their newscast about the class
There are thousands of weather spotters in the Northeast

Overall Experience

I’m glad I attended. Ham radio reasons aside I’ve learned quite a bit and could apply it to everyday life. When it comes to Amateur Radio and reporting, I was glad to see they weren’t encouraging “storm chasing” and I finally know what information they want compared to what I often hear on the radio during significant weather events.

If you ever plan on reporting to skywarn VIA radio then I would strongly suggest to at least attend a Skywarn class.  That way when you make a report, you know it’s a report of information that the NWS actually needs instead of  tying up the airwaves with un-wanted information,  information that you personally didn’t witness with your own eyes (e.g. Reporting stuff you’ve heard from a police scanner) or the wrong information that could make things worse.

I don’t think I will ever be glued to the radio during weather events but I left the class learning a lot about weather.

3 thoughts on “To Skywarn and Beyond!”

  1. From my interpretation after active participation for several years now, much of what is on the air during a Skywarn net is never meant to go to NWS; it will only be logged by the NCS. It does serve a couple of purposes though; first of all, NWS knowing they have spotters in the area and paying attention with nothing to report may help guide a maybe/maybe-not warning situation as determined by radar alone and therefor help decrease the false alarm syndrome; it helps situational awareness for other spotters; and it maintains the communication link where otherwise volunteers might drift off for lack of any activity. One of the worst things you can do with a group of volunteers is let them get bored; they will equate that to un-needed and go away. Just my two cents.

  2. I am glad you went as well! The more people getting the Skywarn training, the better the population in the area is served.

    Skywarn never was designed to be a “ham radio only” chaser program. It is a program to train LOCAL folks about severe weather, how to SAFELY report information to folks who have LOCAL responsibility for that information, i.e. emergency management and National Weather Service.

    A number of social media teams are taking the Skywarn training to use, not only amateur radio, but also Twitter, Facebook, etc. See for how social media is being used.

    Thanks for the post.


  3. Glad you got something out of the SKYWARN class. Brian Lapis is very impressed with SKYWARN and Amateur Radio and we’ve talked with him directly in the past. As one of the commenters mentioned, not all the info on a SKYWARN Net meets reportable criteria for us to receive at WX1BOX, the Amateur Radio Station at NWS Taunton, but it does give situational awareness to folks and there are definitely many times where the reports are very important and meet the reporting criteria. We are unable to hit the 146.940-Mount Tom Repeater directly but typically have liaisons that pass the data to us by various means at our Amateur Radio Station at NWS Taunton.

    Glad you enjoyed the class, learned some weather preparedness and can help give useful info if you are affected by severe weather.

    ARES SKYWARN Coordinator for NWS Taunton Massachusetts

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