OnStar Connections

December 20, 2011 by

OnStar Watches the Weather When It Takes an Ugly Turn

Three photos: tornado, lightning in a dark sky, flooded road

Last April, tornadoes touched down in the Midwest and South during one of the worst weeks for tornadoes in U.S. history. In August, Hurricane Irene moved toward the eastern United States, and also that month a 5.9-magnitude earthquake rocked the Virginia/Washington, D.C., area. In each event, subscribers turned to OnStar for weather updates, emergency assistance or help routing around the affected areas.

So how does OnStar monitor severe weather and natural disasters?

Picture OnStar’s National Command Center like a military war room in a movie: Large monitors continuously stream real-time severe weather and crisis alerts, while major news and weather networks are broadcasting on other screens.

Mary Ann Adams

Mary Ann Adams

Watchful waiting

“Our Command Center is manned by a team dedicated to monitoring weather and crisis events at all times, 24/7, 365 days a year,” says Mary Ann Adams, OnStar Subscriber Crisis Incident Manager. “These Advisors receive several weeks of specialized emergency training and can access information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).”

Adams explains that weather forecasts from several sources are monitored throughout the day in order to assess potential impacts to subscribers for upcoming changing weather conditions.

“For example, if ice or snow conditions are forecasted for the day in a particular geographic area, we adjust staffing appropriately to accommodate a potential increase in subscriber calls resulting from those conditions,” she says. “Another good example is the advanced warning system in place by the National Weather Service for hurricanes. Based on the severity of the storm, and the predicted path, we are able to forecast additional staffing needs to assist those subscribers needing assistance evacuating from the impacted areas.”

Using information from all sources

Even crisis and weather information reported by OnStar subscribers acting as Good Samaritans is included in the equation, Adams says, particularly if there is a threat to other persons, such as a tornado being spotted. OnStar Advisors have real-time access to all available information in order to assist subscribers as needed.

“Severe weather or crisis activities occur every day, whether it be a hazardous material spill from an overturned tractor trailer or the entire West Coast being put on alert from the tsunami occurring as a result of the devastating earthquake in Japan,” says Adams. “Regardless, OnStar monitors, prepares and responds to all types of events — including such large-scale events as the Super Bowl, the Olympics and the Presidential inauguration — which have the potential for something to occur due to the number of people involved, so that we are ready to assist subscribers when they need us most.”

For more about how OnStar is prepared to help in a crisis, read “In a Crisis, OnStar Advisors Can Make a Difference.”

What types of severe weather or natural disasters could occur where you live? Do you think you’re prepared? Let us know in the comments below.

  • Ann MIles

    I didn’t know you could do that, I live in Gadsden Alabama, we have tornados, I live in Tornado Ally, this is good to know, thank you

  • diana jones

    Tonados in huntsville,al.