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In for Nasty Weather

EVERYONE COMPLAINS about the weather, but nobody does anything about it, goes the old saw. Jason Jackson, director of emergency management for Wal-Mart, is trying to prove the cliché wrong. Even if he can’t change the weather, he can help workers keep abreast of changing conditions and instantly notify them if trouble is looming.

Jackson is using the Smart Notification Weather Service to do this. It was created by WeatherBug, a part of Germantown, Maryland-based AWS Convergence Technologies, Inc., along with Send Word Now, a New York City company that provides on-demand notification services. The service ties weather alerts to telephone or cell phone numbers, e-mail addresses, or pagers.

WeatherBug operates some 8,000 weather stations around the country, providing live local weather data to end users. “We’ve married this with detailed weather intelligence from the National Weather Service, radar information, [and] lightning information, and we can get down to a five-kilometer-grid resolution providing truly neighborhood-level weather information,” Jim Anderson, WeatherBug’s director of business development, explained in a recent Webinar.

The service is just what some emergency managers have been looking for, said Jackson. Before they had this option, his emergency operations center was notifying store managers of potentially dangerous weather conditions by telephone.

“What we realized is, when you have things like a ‘super Tuesday’ of tornados that rolls across the Midwest, and you have tens or even over a hundred tornados spawned, it’s really hard to keep up with that level of activity,” he said, especially with 50 facilities to contact for each update.

“What we wanted, and this is what Send Word Now and WeatherBug have built, is a product or application that would automatically push out that information to our facilities based on location,” Jackson said. “So instead of waiting for someone to call manually we would have an automated call go out and everyone would have the most timely notification of a potential weather situation that’s coming their way.”

Smart Weather Notification Service can deliver alerts in a variety of ways, including through e-mail, text messages, and cell phones, and it gives recipients the ability to bridge into conference calls whenever necessary.