Baron: A Commitment to Weather Safety
For many, the days leading up to and following a devastating weather event are the only times weather safety is a focus. We rely on local meteorologists, emergency managers and countless others who concentrate on keeping lives and property out of harm’s way. Afterward, we go back to our daily routines and move on, until the next significant storm. But what makes this possible? The people behind the scenes—the ones who are inspired to keep every citizen, nation and business safe during dangerous weather—make it happen. For them, weather safety is a daily motivation.
Baron, located in Huntsville, Ala., is one company that makes the business of weather safety personal. Saving lives has always been the central focus in everything the company produces for many industries and institutions globally. But no matter the application, Baron’s mission is simple: to ensure everyone is protected by Critical Weather Intelligence.
Educating the Community on Severe Weather Preparedness
For many employees, it’s a personal mission. Dan Gallagher, Baron Data Services Meteorologist, began traveling to local schools and events several years ago to teach children of all ages about the importance of weather safety. His first event took place at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, where he presented to 6th graders from all over the state. Since then, Gallagher has expanded to a national level. In fact, he traveled to Norfolk, Va., in 2016 to speak at the annual National Weather Association Weather Ready Fest.
The presentations are interactive and use several props to illustrate different weather phenomena and meteorological technology. They often involve memory games, hands-on demonstrations and other techniques to engage the interest of whatever age group he’s entertaining. His weather radar experiment pulls kids out of the audience to learn by playing a quick game of dodge ball with a twist—Gallagher can’t move out of the way when they target him.
“The younger kids love that they have permission to throw a ball and have fun,” said Gallagher. “Each child represents a radar, and each foam ball represents the energy that the radar puts out. I play the part of the thunderstorm, and instruct them to throw a ball at me at the same time. They immediately notice that some hit me and some come back to them—some miss me entirely. I explain that the return of energy is how we know where storms are occurring.”
In addition to his interactive learning tools, he also answers questions, discusses the importance of having a weather plan in place, and outlines various jobs available to meteorologists. “My goal is to teach people what to do during inclement weather,” said Gallagher. “But I do hope that I will spark some interest in meteorology. Maybe one day they will make a significant contribution to the weather industry—I’d be a small part of that.”
Gallagher plans to create more exciting presentations while, in his limited free time, serving as the President of the Huntsville Chapter of the American Meteorological Society (AMS), and as Chairman of the Weather Analysis and Forecasting Committee for the National Weather Association (NWA).
“Baron is a special place, because everyone works diligently toward the goal of making communities safer,” said Gallagher. “It’s not just the meteorologists who believe in it. Our IT department, sales and marketing—we all share the goal of improving our products and services so we can help individuals and businesses prepare for the worst. It’s our passion. It’s in everything we do.”
Taking Action During Severe Weather
Education is the first step in ensuring the public’s safety, but when severe weather strikes Baron takes action. Stephen McCloud, Weather Operations Manager at Baron, said that the company tries to be proactive when helping its customers and partners succeed during notable weather events.
“Before a major event occurs, we reach out to our customers and make sure everything is working as expected,” said McCloud. “And they have a chance to ask any questions about the systems and data.”
McCloud added that Baron still occasionally visits stations during major events. One of his most recent visits included a trip to New York during a blizzard. “When I began working at Baron, my main drive was helping save lives,” said McCloud. “Serving our customers during dangerous weather is one way I contribute to the company’s mission.”
Alerting the Public When It Matters Most
But station visits aren’t the only way the company responds to severe weather. After a string of devastating tornadoes ripped across Alabama in April 2011, Baron took a critical step in protecting the lives of its residents. The Alabama-based company announced that its weather alerting service, Alabama SAF-T-Net, would be provided free-of-charge to all residents of the state. The alerting technology Baron adapted is also used by residents in many other states, through white-label deployment in TV stations’ apps.
Ten years ago, tornado and severe weather alerts were county-based, which led to the general public tuning out warnings. “SAF-T-Net alerts only notify people who are actually within the path of a storm,” said Gallagher. “Citizens who receive alerts, yet aren’t in an impacted area, may not react when trouble actually arrives. They equate it to crying wolf.”
In addition to Alabama SAF-T-Net, the nationally available Baron Critical Weather app allows users to add several specific locations for the app to monitor, all while delivering weather for the subscriber’s current location. Baron focuses on pushing the science of meteorology with severe weather detection and alerting methods. In fact, several of the alerts are exclusive to Baron, including the Baron Tornado Index, Twisting Storm Alerts and Storm in Area notifications.
It Comes Down to People
Baron emphasizes that in everything it produces, weather safety is at the core. The company’s drive for constant innovation is fueled by a passion to save lives, whether Baron technology is in broadcast stations, public safety offices, universities or in automobiles and planes.
“Many people call us a weather business,” said Gallagher. “But we are a people business. We are in the business of saving lives and enhancing weather safety. It’s who we are, and it’s who we always will be.”