First responders train on reading severe weather maps, radar

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DURANT, OK -- As Tornado season swirls closer toward us, Texoma emergency responders are receiving what could be lifesaving training.

Representatives from OK-FIRST were in Durant Tuesday and Wednesday, to give first responders a crash course on understanding weather maps and how to recognize warning signs.

James Hocker, OK-FIRST program manager, led the two-day class.

"Getting into the nitty-gritty of what's a tornado look like on radar, what's a squall-line look like on radar and really how to make sense of it - what are the winds showing, where the hail might be at in the storms," he said.

Once responders understand the radar maps, they can better plan ahead for responding to emergencies, Hocker said.

"And then really what we're doing is enabling and empowering them to make the proper decisions on when to sound sirens and when to make sheltering decisions and road closures, when they're dealing with tornadoes, flooding, blizzards - anything like that," he said.

The organization provides two regional training sessions a year. This is the first time in six years they've been in Texoma.

James Dalton, Bryan County emergency manager, said it's important to train the entire region.

"This allows us to be able to read the radar, know what we're looking at," he said. "It allows us to manipulate the radar site so we can determine what is threatening a certain area."

Another aspect this class provides is inter-agency cooperation between departments on either side of the Red River.

"We learn together, we practice together," Dalton said. "And it'll make us better in a response mode."

Responders who go through the class will also have access to the software from Mesonet, the official Oklahoma weather network.

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