I have been a certified Severe Weather Spotter for Central Indiana Skywarn and the Indianapolis National Weather Service since 1996, obtaining my advanced certification in 2004. This is a volunteer position involving the relay of severe weather conditions and/or storm-related damage I am observing in the field to the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Indianapolis. The NWS utilizes spotter reports, combined with what they are seeing on radar, to issue severe weather alerts to the public. Occasionally my role as a storm spotter takes me into areas that have been heavily damaged by severe weather, often before first responders have arrived. When this happens, I am cross-trained in disaster response with Marion County C.E.R.T., including search and rescue operations, first aid, and emergency medical triage. This training was put to extensive use following the tornado that hit Henryville, Indiana, and more recently, the tornado that hit Lebanon, Indiana.
My wife, Kathy, has also received advanced spotter and C.E.R.T. training, and we quite frequently operate in the field as a team during severe weather events.
If you are interested in becoming a severe weather spotter, the training courses are offered every spring by the National Weather Service. The basic course is free to the public and takes two to three hours. The advanced course is an all-day event with a minimal fee.