Caucus Briefing On Delivering Clear And Effective Warnings: The Natural Hazards Challenge

June 24, 2002
709 Senate Dirksen Office Building

Warning systems and effective risk communication save lives and property when natural disasters strike vulnerable communities. But are the systems for monitoring and warning the public effective as they could be? What new technologies and techniques are emerging that could give communities across the U.S. the tools to protect their citizens and economies from extreme events? This briefing described the systems in place around the country right now that detect and deliver warnings on earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, tornadoes, and wildfires. Speakers addressed ways to improve these systems, and challenges facing communities and emergency managers who need the information to warn citizens and businesses so that communities can gird against catastrophe.


Mary Lou Zoback, U.S. Geological Survey
Advances and challenges in warnings for earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis.

Ron McPherson, American Meteorological Society
Severe weather networks and warning systems.

Craig Fugate, Florida Division of Emergency Management
Challenges and obstacles to effective warning systems.

George Vradenburg, AOL Time Warner
Hazard warning systems in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.

George Heinrichs, Intrado, Inc.
Notifying threatened communities: Colorado wildfire example.

Peter Ward, Partnership for Public Warning
Wrap-up: How can Congress help?

Information about the Speakers

Mary Lou Zoback is a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, CA. Her primary research interest is the relationship between earthquakes and stress in the Earth's crust. Areas of study include the San Andreas fault system, the Basin and Range Province of the western United States, as well as intraplate regions such as the central and eastern United States. Dr. Zoback serves on numerous national committees and panels on topics ranging from continental dynamics to storage of high-level radioactive waste. She was elected president of the Geological Society of America and was awarded the American Geophysical Union's Macelwane Award in 1987 for significant contributions to the geophysical sciences by a young scientist of outstanding ability. In 1995, Dr. Zoback was elected into the National Academy of Sciences.

Ron McPherson is the executive director of the American Meteorological Society (AMS). Dr. McPherson served for nearly 40 years with the National Weather Service, ending his career with eight years as the director of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction. In 1997 he was elected president of the AMS, a nonprofit scientific and professional organization with a membership of over 10,000, representing the university, governmental and private sectors of the atmospheric, oceanographic and related sciences. Earlier, Dr. McPherson served as deputy director for the National Weather Service. The National Weather Service is responsible for providing weather and flood warnings and forecasts for the United States and its coastal and offshore waters.

Craig Fugate is the director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, appointed by Governor Jeb Bush in 2001. Mr. Fugate has over 20 years experience in emergency services, serving as a volunteer firefighter in his hometown of Alachua, later as a Paramedic and Lieutenant with Alachua County Fire Rescue and as the Emergency Manager for Alachua County. In 1997, Mr. Fugate began serving as bureau chief for Preparedness and Response with the Florida Division of Emergency Management until his appointment by Governor Bush as director.

George Vradenburg is strategic advisor for AOL Time Warner. Mr. Vradenburg serves within the office of the chairman, reporting to Steve Case, chairman of AOL Time Warner. Mr. Vradenburg joined America Online as senior vice president and general counsel in early 1997 and in 1999 was named senior vice president for Global and Strategic Policy. In January 2001, Mr. Vradenburg was named executive vice president for Global and Strategic Policy for AOL Time Warner. Prior to joining America Online, Mr. Vradenburg served as senior vice president and general counsel of CBS, Inc., and as executive vice president of Fox, Inc. Currently, Mr. Vradenburg co-chairs the Potomac Conference Task Force on Emergency Preparedness for the Greater Washington Region.

George Heinrichs is co-founder, president, chief executive officer, and chairman of the board of Intrado, Inc., a leading provider of sophisticated data management. Intrado employs more than 680 professionals who provide real-time access to emergency and commercial information services and solutions. Intrado provides services or products to wireline and wireless carriers in the United States supporting over 200 million subscribers and processing more than 100 million calls annually. Mr. Heinrichs has testified before the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives as an expert on wireline and wireless telecommunications issues. Mr. Heinrichs is a member of the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials International (APCO International), the National Sheriffs Association (NSA) and the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).

Peter Ward is chair, board of trustees, of the Partnership for Public Warning, a non-profit, public/private partnership to bring together representatives of all the stakeholders in warning systems to improve our nation's ability to alert people before and notify people during natural disasters, accidents, and acts of terrorism. Dr. Ward retired after 27 years at the U.S. Geological Survey where he was a leader in the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program. In 1997 and 1998, Dr. Ward chaired the Working Group on Natural Disaster Information Systems for the National Science and Technology Council, producing the widely acclaimed report Effective Disaster Warnings. Dr. Ward spent much of his career educating the public about natural hazards

This briefing was sponsored by: 
American Geological Institute 
American Geophysical Union 
American Meteorological Society 
Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology 
International Association of Emergency Managers 
Partnership for Public Warning 
Seismological Society of America