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Natural Disaster Information Cards (NDIC)


Dan Bikos



Archived Training





The material in this session is designed to provide the E-911 dispatcher with emergency advice in card format based on NOAA/FEMA/American Red Cross brochures currently in use. The course can be used by WCM’s to train both emergency trainers and dispatchers.

This training session can be used to provide:

  • In-Service Training. General weather knowledge from a dispatchers perspective
  • Pre-Event Review. To review specific problems and procedures for a day on which a dangerous event is expected
  • Emergency Directions. A guide that can be used in real-time to answer specific questions

Training Session Options

  1. VISITview playback without Audio – You may step through the VISITview file on your own to view the presentation. If talking points are available, you may use these in tandem with going through the slides.

    Create a directory to download the playback file from the following site:

    After extracting the files into that directory click on the visitlocal.bat file to start the lesson. Advance slides on your own using the navigation controls (i.e., the Next button will advance to the next slide)

References/Additional Links

Talking Points

Slide numberTalking points


The City of Fort Collins Office of Emergency Management offers the card sets in three formats.
    a. An HTML version that works over the web


    b. An HTML version that can be downloaded off the above site for local editing and/or use


    c. A PDF version for printing out hard copy



There are 3 intended usages for the NDIC.

The first in importance is in service training. Dispatchers should be exposed to the card sets at regular intervals (yearly) to learn the wide variety and unusual nature of the calls that come in during a natural disaster.

The second is pre-event review. On a day when the NWS puts out a statement or watch for potential significant weather the shift dispatchers should quickly review the applicable card set.

Third is real-time emergency directions. Although call rates can become overwhelming the card sets are still available should the dispatcher need them on a case by case basic during the emergency. Note the downloadable HTML version can run locally and is designed to respond very quickly.


How the dispatcher assesses the importance of an incoming call. Is it a true emergency?


Each topic starts out with an introductory card. The selection of topics comes from reviewing actual 911 calls for various disasters around the country. The questions incorporate 90% of the general topics. Below the categorized questions you will find a place where you can custom design some non-emergency advice if the time warrants. Below that section is a listing of the most common injury complaints for the given topic.


Compare this flood introductory card with the blizzard card. Note that both require a dispatcher in certain instances to determine where the caller is calling from. This is because the followup questions that appear when the user clicks on one of the choices will lead to a specific card representing a decision tree. Unlike emergency medical direction cards the NDIC all work like a decision flow chart trying to minimize the number of questions asked and the amount of time spent on the phone.


The hail emergency card not only includes responses for large hail but also includes a response section for deep hail as occurred in Cheyenne, WY on 2 August 1985 where deep hail and flooding waters caused 11 foot drifts.


Lightning advice has been updated from the NOAA booklets using reseach results from NSSL as of March 2000. Research around stadiums indicates that a flash to thunder time difference of 30 seconds is necessary lead time to evacuate in advance of a storm. This has evolved into advice stating that if the thunder to lightning delay is 30 seconds or less then people should take cover. However, a distinction is made in the card set which suggests that a 30 second delay represents some threat while a 10 second or less time lag represents imminent danger. This was done in recognition of the fact that most callers will not consider distant thunder as dangerous (a 30 second delay represents thunder so far away that it can barely be heard). Such advice could affect the credibility of the followup advice that the dispatcher gives.


Tornado advice has been updated by scientists from universities, NOAA labs, and emergency managers as of March 2000.


The NWS has specific definitions for various weather related natural disasters. For the 911 dispatcher, the disaster begins when the call rate suddenly increases to stress the system. Call rates during natural disasters can reach dozens of calls per minute. Fortunately the vast majority of these calls are repetitive and can be handled quickly.


NWS versus 911 dispatch definition of a flash flood.


Both 911 and non-emergency lines had flood calls only. Notice sudden dropoff
after the peak in number of phone calls. This occured after the NWS issued a flash
flood warning and Denver TV stations led their news broadcasts with the information.
The message here is – if the NWS can obtain information to warrant a warning, the
dispatchers job load can decrease significantly.


Each type of disaster has an introductory card with choices depending on callers problem. In the HTML version, the dispatcher selects a button relating to the callers problem and the software goes to the proper page. In the PDF version the dispatcher just flips to the proper hard copy page. Both versions work like a flow chart.


A typical second level advice card which includes caller specific questions and advice that is pertinent to the particular problem. Note: all advice given in these cards represents updates to the NOAA booklets as of March 2000 assembled from comments by NOAA labs, emergency managers and various dispatch offices. Final advice was reviewed by NOAA scientists.

15Card B: second level of flood set.
16Card C: second level of flood set. Note that if the building is not on fire this card leads to a level 3 card.
17Card C1: third level of flood set.
18Card C1 continued
19Card E is one of the many cards that illustrates advice recognizing the widespread usage of cell phones.
20Tornado intro card. Note that there are only 2 contingencies that warrant emergency action.
21This card asks the dispatcher to get very specific about the callers location.
22Tornado card A1: third level of tornado card set.
23Tornado card A2: third level of tornado card set.
24Tornado card A3: third level of tornado card set for mobile homes. As in every other disaster the best advice is get out!
25Tornado card A4: third level of tornado card set. This card cautions the caller to use overpasses as a last resort for protection. For smaller tornadoes (F0-F2) overpasses can offer some protection, especially when the caller can wedge up into a small space where the dirt birm meets the girders of the overpass. However, much can go wrong! If the tornado is F3 or greater there is a good chance that large pieces of dangerous debris will accumulate under the overpass and arrive at very high speed. The caller could be injured or killed by debris. Also, many overpasses have brick abutments that don’t offer safe haven and may actually accelerate wind flow. A third reason for not choosing overpasses is that large numbers of cars stopping on the highway can block emergency vehicles.

In rural areas when the caller can clearly see the tornado’s location and direction of movement it often makes more sense to simply avoid the tornado if there are roads available to do so. Most people will not follow advice that has them taking actions that don’t seem to make sense or are uncomfortable such as abandoning their car and climbing into the ditch.

26Tornado card B: Under most emergency communication protocols the dispatcher must begin treating the call as an injury, dispatch ambulance and fire, and begin EMD. However, in a natural disaster (especially a tornado) the victim may be in a spot where it is too hazardous to remain. This card tries to identify that situation and remedy it before EMD begins. Each dispatch office will have to decide if this sequence is preferred.
27This card recognizes the widely established fact that people on site of a tornado disaster want to help injured and trapped victims. They will not be likely to leave the area even if they are instructed to do so. The aim of the advice on this card is to make the caller as safe as possible while they are in the area. The card also contains advice that will help emergency responders when they arrive on scene (e.g. marking victims locations, identifying downed power lines etc.).
This course is Basic

There are no prerequisites


Dan Bikos

Page Contact

Bernie Connell


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