The National Hurricane Center and other NOAA agencies are among those essential organizations that are trying to protect their employees from Covid-19 so they can keep working and putting out life-saving information for American families.
The problem isn’t so much with normal, day-to-day operations, but rather with big events, when staffing at National Weather Service (NWS) offices can often double or triple what it normally is.
“Normal staff for our office is about 2-4 people depending on the shift, but during big events such as tornado outbreaks and tropical systems our staff could surge to 7-8 people,” explains Kyle Thiem, meteorologist at NWS Atlanta office.
Yet adding more people into an enclosed space creates problems in a world with Covid-19. So how do they allow for the added staff while not compromising their safety or the life-saving information they put out?
“We took steps early to protect the facility to ensure a safe environment for our staff,” says Dennis Feltgen, a communications officer for NOAA. “We have also followed the guidelines on distancing, both at workstations and common areas, and we will continue to do our best to keep our staff safe and ready as the hurricane season continues.”
In some cases, having the employees work from home is also an option.
“Non-essential duties are being handled remotely,” shares Maureen O’Leary, spokeswoman for the National Weather Service. “To minimize cross contamination within an office we are staggering shift changeovers and doing “remote” hand offs wherever possible. A forecaster completing a shift and one arriving for the next shift exit and enter through different doors to minimize any contact. The health and well-being of our workforce is our top priority.”