KINGSTON, R.I. – August 23, 2016 – Long before people at the University of Rhode Island begin paying attention to potential storm threats, Joshua Manfredo is hunched over his computer, analyzing reports from the National Weather Service, the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency and commercial forecasting services.
The emergency management specialist and Warwick resident is also the one who puts together precise, easy-to-understand summaries of that information so campus leaders, facilities personnel and public safety officials can make sound decisions as dangerous conditions develop. And he is always on the phone with state and local transportation officials to stay on top of road conditions.
Because of those efforts and Manfredo’s work to develop strong relationships with the National Weather Service and state emergency services, as well as an ability to stay calm during storm threats, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has named URI’s Office of Emergency Management a Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador. URI is the first university or college in Rhode Island to earn the distinction.
A letter from NOAA said the initiative is an effort “to recognize organizations that are improving the nation’s readiness, responsiveness, and overall resilience against extreme weather, water and climate events.”
The goal is to bring ambassadors together to unify the workings of government, non-profits, academia and the private industry against extreme weather with a strategic outcome, during which “society’s response is equal to the risk from all weather events and climate hazards.”
As an ambassador, URI Emergency Management agrees to:
- Promote Weather-Ready Nation messages and themes
- Engage NOAA personnel on potential collaboration
- Share success stories and lessons learned with other ambassadors
- Serve as an example by educating the community on workplace preparedness.
“Applying for this designation was Josh’s idea,” said Samuel W. Adams, URI’s assistant director of public safety and director of Emergency Management. “I am very proud of what we are doing. The designation reflects the spirit of how we see safety as everyone’s responsibility on campus, with our office providing leadership and guidance through the efforts of professionals like Josh. It’s a measure of our success that conference calls organized and conducted by Josh, the preparations made in advance of severe weather, and our leadership are now seen as routine parts of the process.”
Manfredo said the weather ambassador program requires URI to collaborate with the National Weather Service, an arm of NOAA, and other ambassadors on programs related to severe weather and share information from the National Weather Service with the community.
Adams and Manfredo said the campus emergency assessment team, which brings together all key campus decision makers to work with emergency and public safety personnel, is one of the University’s major successes.
“Meetings and conference calls with campus officials bring weather to the forefront,” Adams said. “Whether we are faced with a blizzard, dangerous heat waves or hurricanes, we are prepared to issue the appropriate email notices to the community and if necessary, activate the Emergency Notification System.”
Manfredo said the next step is to become certified Storm Ready by the National Weather Service, which requires a site visit by a weather service evaluator.
“This designation recognizes that your institution has policies and procedures in place to deal with weather emergencies,” Manfredo said. “Being an ambassador puts us in touch with agencies that can help us with this.”
Manfredo, who is a trained NOAA weather spotter, said the National Weather Service distributes a great deal of weather information, and it’s his job to boil that down for the URI community.
“The Office of Emergency Management has earned a tremendous amount of credibility with the campus community because of its dedication to providing assistance based on the best information and practices,” Manfredo said.