When a tornado develops or a hurricane stirs, some of the most out-of-touch people on the planet are those on vacation.
“In the last 10 years, 50 people have lost their lives from weather events while camping,” Brig. Gen. David L. Johnson, director of the National Weather Service, stated in the Billings (Mont.) Gazette. Most of those deaths could have been prevented, he argues, if the victims had been made aware of what was approaching.
The retired general was addressing a large group gathered in Billings in early October to honor Kampgrounds of America (KOA) Inc. as the first nationwide corporation to earn recognition as a StormReady Supporter.
Few, if any, of those camping deaths occurred at KOA’s 438 campgrounds, said Ken Stellmacher, vice president of marketing for the Billings-based company. Now it will be even less likely. Steps to improve communications as part of the National Weather Service’s StormReady program will ensure that KOA campers and employees are alerted when dangerous weather approaches and that they have a plan to protect themselves. “It’s another way we can make sure our guests have a good experience,” Stellmacher said.
KOA worked with the National Weather Service (NWS) office in Billings for the past four months to design a system, explained Keith Meier, meteorologist in charge at the local NWS office, which includes the following measures that are similar to those set up since 1999 in more than 1,100 participating U.S. communities:
* Equipping parks with a NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards to alert employees and guests of imminent danger
* Providing campground managers with a template to use in developing an emergency plan
* Posting safety information on weather topics on the KOA Web site
* Offering camp managers daily weather briefings through the KOA intranet site
* Encouraging all campgrounds to post local weather forecasts for guests.