When a devastating F-5 tornado descended on Joplin, Mo. on May 25, 2011, it wasn't exactly a surprise.
The National Weather Service had predicted a large storm four days prior, and there was a 30-minute warning the tornado was coming. By Midwestern storm standards, that's a long time.
Still, 158 people died, and hundreds more were injured.
The public "needs to make better decisions about weather threats," expained Jim Pringle, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.
So the NWS asked social scientists to interview survivors about their behavior. Even though most people heard the warnings that a tornado was coming, many of them still chose not to get into a basement or shelter.
"We're working on enhanced wording in those warnings," Pringle said. Such as, "if you do not seek shelter, you could die."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, the parent agency of the weather service, also has launched a new program, "Weather-Ready Nation," that works with community partners to get the public thinking and planning better for weather events and disasters.
"With the Weather-Ready Nation Initiative, we want people to be more prepared, better educated and make better decisions to protect themselves and their property," Pringle said. "We decided, 'Let's get our partners involved.' "
Any person, business, agency or civic group can join Weather-Ready Nation. After filling in a short form, Weather-Ready Nation partners receive an e-mail once a month on weather preparedness on such topics as lightning, hurricanes, flash floods and wildland fires. Partners are asked to share the tips on social media or company newsletters to help promote weather safety.
To sign up for Weather-Ready Nation, visit www.noaa.gov and click on the bottom link on the top left of the page, or go directly to http://www.nws.noaa.gov/com/weatherreadynation/#.VYGo1lVVhHw.