Here in Canada, our amateur weather spotters are primarily members of CANWARN (more or less the equivalent to SKYWARN in the U.S.) and I would say most – but not all – are amateur radio operators. CANWARN alerts are issued by Environment Canada (EC) when extreme weather conditions are heading (or more normally, already here) into Canada.
EC will send a message to a local CANWARN coordinator (although I’m not quite sure how) who declares a CANWARN alert via amateur radio – usually through a local repeater. At this point, other members will report conditions where they are and the coordinator forwards this on to EC. Although on the surface this sounds great, there are some problems with this method.
- A. If the coordinator isn’t in the area (on vacation, etc) nobody knows there is an alert.
- B. If no one is listening to the repeater, nobody knows there’s an alert!
At some point in the past, CANWARN volunteers were issued a pager. But due to the inevitable budget cuts, that is no longer the case. I don’t think the local coordinator even has a pager anymore. And, since most hams don’t have smartphones or texting (go figure!) or regularly check their email (if they even have email!) this system breaks down very quickly. For me, an email or text message would alert me within minutes – if not seconds – of a CANWARN alert. But that’s just me. And the whole thing depends on Environment Canada even issuing an alert – something they are very slow to do in my opinion.
Another issue where I live is that geographically, most of our extreme weather comes from Michigan and there doesn’t seem to be very good coordination between SkyWarn and CANWARN. I’m certainly not faulting the Americans as they do an excellent job “over there” and once the weather has passed, it’s no longer anywhere near U.S. soil.
So, how to resolve this.
- A. First off, most coordinators are very good. But, as with anything, they can’t be “on call” 24/7/365 now can they? Two or three assistant coordinators would be a great start. Each with a pager (or a TXT capable phone) and a list of telephone contacts.
- B. Either we as hams need to make our own paging system (and we certainly could) or EC must start issuing pagers to more than just the coordinating members. Or, as some of the younger members would prefer, get sent a TXT message as we’re never very far from our, ahem, devices. How hard could that be?
So if anyone has any great ideas on this, let’s hear from ya!