The Latest Addition to Our Resilience Heroes Ranks: Max Mayfield—battle-tested weather-safety warrior, and 2015 Weatherperson of the Year

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I thought that writing a post about Max Mayfield would be straightforward because I’ve had the privilege of working with him as a FLASH Leadership Partner for more than 15 years. But in the course of preparing to celebrate him as 2015 National Weatherperson of the Year, I realized that there is so much to say about Max that it is difficult in a short narrative like this.

A Tweet about him might go something like this:

Max Mayfield. Jimmy Stewart/John Wayne mash-up. Kind, principled, yet unwavering. Soft spoken lifesaver of millions. #proven

That’s the short version. Let me also add what is indisputably in the record.

Max is a model husband, father, grandfather, and scientist. During his seven years as National Hurricane Center (NHC) Director, he saved millions of lives by combining his caring, trusted voice with excellent forecasting. His leadership helped guide those in harm’s way, especially during the unprecedented 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons with dangerous and devastating hurricanes like Charley and Katrina. Think lighthouse in a storm. That is Max.

He is revered by his friends and colleagues as a kind, consummate professional, generous mentor, and steadfast advocate for those in the meteorology profession, as well as the profession itself. Many lined up to provide tributes for his recognition as the 2015 National Weatherperson of the Year, including leaders like Former Governor Jeb Bush who worked closely with Max throughout those tough seasons and Governor Mary Fallin from his home state of Oklahoma.

You can view a video highlight reel from the evening here where former CNN Miami Bureau Chief John Zarrella characterized Max’s legacy in modern terms, “How many of you have a Jeopardy question about you? How many have your own App?” (He is now a Hurricane Specialist at WPLG-10 Miami and they have an app called the “Max Tracker”. It has nearly 98,000 downloads. Impressive!)

Here’s how he’s made a difference in the disaster-safety and resilience movement worldwide.

Max was the first NHC Director to formally join us in 2004 to support our cause of protecting families and homes through more resilient building codes and practices. His trusted voice was a game changer for us. He went beyond his traditional role of predicting hurricanes, and used his high profile to advance the idea that property protection isn’t the sole responsibility of government or insurers. He helped leaders and families understand that they can and should make decisions to achieve safety and protect homes simultaneously.

He has supported many of our most important projects, including the Blueprint for Safety, Tale of Two Homes: Hurricane Charley, our Disney experience StormStruck: A Tale of Two Homes, and our own weather app FLASH Wx Alerts. He contributes to our policy forums and annual conferences; has co-published with us on topics like flood safety and much, much more. His presence injects credibility and draws high-value support for the cause.

I am sure you can see why we have selected Max Mayfield as the 2015 National Weatherperson of the Year. He was the clear choice, and can now add our recognition to a list of dozens, including ABC Television Network’s “Person of the Week”; Government Communicator of the Year by the National Association of Government Communicators (NAGC); Presidential Rank Award for Meritorious Service and countless more listed here.

So Max, we look forward to continuing our work with you as we advocate for storm safety and structure resiliency—a cause for which you sounded one of the earliest and loudest trumpets. Meanwhile, please accept our heartfelt congratulations and know that we are #evergrateful.

Connect. Collaborate. Champion. The Resilience Revolution Needs You at the 2014 FLASH Annual Conference.

The word “revolution” comes from the Latin revolutio, “a turnaround”, and generally refers to change over a short period of time. So, given that we have been promoting disaster resilience for decades, you might wonder why we themed our 2014 Annual Conference, Resilience Revolution.

Here’s why: this is our time. We believe that for a host of reasons, including Hurricane Sandy, mission convergence with the climate resilience community, and an increased global interest in severe weather, our best opportunity to advance the cause of better building is right now.

But it won’t last indefinitely. We need disaster safety stakeholders to come together before the opportunity wanes. We need you to join us at the FLASH Annual Conference.

Once you arrive, you’ll find that sparks fly, in a good way. Journalists interview leaders. Panelists talk and debate. Experts meet others outside of their specialties.

Manufacturers huddle with researchers. Social psychologists share insights with communicators. After two days, everyone leaves with a better handle on how to motivate behavior change through policy leadership, marketplace innovation, and ground-up programs.

Ours is a gathering of public, private, and nonprofit organizations assembled in the spirit of one mission—strengthening homes and safeguarding families.

This year we will bring back Jim Cantore of The Weather Channel and former CNN Bureau Chief John Zarrella. Researchers from MIT, Carnegie Mellon University, and my own alma mater, University of Florida will dazzle us with breakthrough thinking. FEMA leaders, NOAA leaders, and the National Hurricane Center Directors past and present will all join us.

Corporate leaders from various sectors, including BASF—The Chemical Company, Kohler Generators, The Home Depot, Huber, Portland Cement Association, Simpson Strong-Tie Co., Target, USAA, Walt Disney World, and WeatherPredict Consulting, Inc. will help us find opportunities to advance resilience through the marketplace. These are essential voices.

We’ll share best practices with the voluntary responder organizations like the HandsOn Network and Lutheran Social Services.

We’ll talk about saving lives, preventing injuries, and shielding structures from nature’s destructive forces with academics that have dedicated their lives and careers to the cause.

We’ll have policy leaders from Florida League of Cities and the Texas Office of Public Insurance Counsel as well as mayors who have dealt with the catastrophic effects of natural disasters. These are resilience true believers, especially those that have brought their cities back to life after earthquakes, hurricanes, and more.

Last but not least, you’ll meet the most important stakeholders—real families who have survived disasters. They serve as inspiration for us all.

Our conference is a rich cross-section of opportunities, and you never know what ideas will be sparked by a casual conversation. I remember when informal brainstorming at our conference led to an idea that is now the award-winning StormStruck A Tale of Two Homes® experience at Epcot® at the Walt Disney World® Resort. That’s real magic.

We might not come up with the next educational experience at a theme park, but I am certain you will leave our conference with at least ten new ideas.

Margaret Mead famously stated, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” We can’t advance disaster resilience without your commitment. Please join us while the revolution is still underway.

From Smartphones to Building Codes, Updating is Essential if You Want to Avoid a Crash

Last week, I participated in an International Code Council (ICC) Roundtable in Washington D.C. along with architects, code officials, emergency managers, engineers, fire chiefs, homebuilders, insurers, scientists, and standards developers. We gathered to discuss a growing and disturbing trend: skipping building code updates.

The ICC publishes new consensus-based, model codes every three years. New codes combine the latest knowledge into affordable, practical ways to make buildings safer and more resilient. But for some reason, states like North Carolina have decided to skip on-time adoption of the new codes. They will forego the next set of code improvements and only consider them every six years. Why? We see no good reason. It’s not as if North Carolina doesn’t get its fair share of dangerous weather—floods, hurricanes or tornadoes. Think about it. They just experienced Hurricane Arthur in July.

Building science experts learn a great deal about building performance or failure in the aftermath of natural disasters. That knowledge provides insights into how to update codes and standards to make homes and buildings safer. The general public may not realize this, but it takes several years for states and cities to adopt each new batch of regulations. If they skip one cycle, as North Carolina intends, they could find their safety guidelines for construction falling 8 to 10 years behind.

While code improvements can save lives, they only work if everyone treats it as a process of continual improvement. Imagine what would happen if you didn’t update the software system for your smartphone on schedule. Eventually, the operating system will fail and the phone won’t work properly.

But the act of updating is even more important in building codes because, right or wrong, the codes are only meant to provide insights for the worst structure allowable by law. The code is not an ideal standard to reach for; it is the minimum level that must be maintained. And, if your home isn’t at least current to minimum standards, how well can it hold up to ordinary wear and tear, never mind severe weather? New code recommendations are not designed to create exorbitantly expensive structures that will last for centuries. They are intended to provide minimum life safety for occupants inside.

So it is much the same as the smartphone or any type of necessary information system. We may dread the hassle of downloading and understanding the updates because we are used to what we have. Change may be tough, but it is a fact of life.

Innovation ignored is advantage lost. And the public deserves to know.