Program History

1980: The Oklahoma Climatological Survey was established, with a mandate to “to acquire, process, and disseminate climate and weather data and information for use by the state's citizens.”

1984: Flash-flooding in Tulsa kills fourteen. The state’s National Weather Service director, Dr. Ken Crawford, begins a dialogue with academic and public safety officials about improving data dissemination in the state.

Late 1980s: The Oklahoma Mesonet is formally conceived by agricultural scientists at Oklahoma State University and meteorologists from both the University of Oklahoma and federal meteorological agencies in Norman.

1989: Dr. Ken Crawford becomes the Director of the Oklahoma Climatological Survey.

1993: OCS’s K-12 outreach program, EarthStorm, was established. EarthStorm would provide the foundation on which much of OK-First was built.

1994: The Oklahoma Mesonet, a joint project of Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma, is commissioned. The Mesonet remains as the world’s only statewide, permanent, mesocale surface observation network. It provides sub-county level detail to OK-First participants and many of the advanced models that they use.

1995: A dialogue begins between radar data vendors and the Oklahoma Climatological Survey about distributing radar data to emergency management officials.

1996: OK-First is launched, thanks to a $549,910 telecommunications infrastructure grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce. Mr. Dale Morris becomes the first program manager of OK-First.

1997: OK-First’s First data interpretation workshops are held.

1998: OCS Director Ken Crawford is honored as the Oklahoma Emergency Management Association’s “Outstanding Contributor to Emergency Management” for his work with the Oklahoma Mesonet and OK-First.

1999: Based on feedback from participants, OK-First adds Assistants’ Workshops to its training catalog. These “bare-bones” courses provide radar and weather basics to staff that support an OK-First participant.

1999: Actions taken by rural OK-First participants save countless lives during the tornado super-outbreak of May 3, 1999. In one case, an entire hospital’s patients are moved to safety minutes before the hospital was damaged beyond repair.

1999: OK-First Program Manager Dale Morris is honored as the Oklahoma Emergency Management Association’s “Outstanding Contributor to Emergency Management” for his work with OK-First and public safety officials.

2000: OK-First is funded on a recurring, annual basis by the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety.

2001: OK-First is named as a finalist in the Stockholm Challenge, a Swedish-based program which recognizes programs that accelerate the use of information technology for the social and economic benefit of citizens and communities.

2001: OK-First was recognized as one of the nation’s five most innovative government programs by Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government and their Innovations in American Government program.

2003: OCS hosts its First “Decision-Making in Weather Impacted Disasters” international workshop for the U.S. Telecommunications Training Institute (USTTI). The program shares the ideas behind America’s leading telecommunications programs with representatives in developing countries. The workshop draws heavily on OK-First’s program and training successes. It is now held annually at USTTI’s request.

2004: Mr. Derek “Deke” Arndt becomes the second program manager of OK-First.

2005: OK-First hosts an “Innovations in Managing Weather-Impacted Situations” workshop in Oklahoma City. The program is designed for public safety officials who are interested in replicating or adapting OK- First for use in their states. Thirteen representatives from eleven states attend.

2007: OK-First launches the third iteration of its data website.

2007: Mr. Andrew Reader becomes the third program manager of OK-First.

2009: OK-First program managers Deke Arndt and Andrew Reader are honored with the Oklahoma Emergency Management Association’s “Outstanding Contributor to Emergency Management” for their work with OK-First and public safety officials.

2009: Mrs. Nicole Giuliano becomes the fourth program manager of OK-First.

2011: Dr. Kevin Kloesel becomes the Director of the Oklahoma Climatological Survey.

2011: Mr. James Hocker becomes the fifth program manager of OK-First.

2011: A new advisory group called the “OK-First Advisory Committee” is formed and holds its first annual meeting.

2012: In conjunction with a major upgrade to the U.S. NEXRAD radar network, OK-First begins offering training on dual-polarization radar.

2013: OK-First staff presents “Oklahoma’s OK-First Weather Education Program for Emergency Managers: 15 Years of Lessons Learned and a Look Towards the Future” at the 2013 Annual Meeting of the American Meteorological Society in Austin, TX.

2013: OK-First surpasses more than 1,000 public safety officials having completed OK-First Certification and Assistant Certification training.

2014: OK-First launches the 4th version of its website, which includes a new personal log-in system and learning management system for online course offerings

2014: With the support and approval of the OK-First Advisory Committee, OK-First introduces several new program policies including re-certification requirements for all program participants and testing requirements for receiving certification

2015: OK-First achieves its largest 1 year training total in program history (379 attendees)

2015: OK-First staff presents "Helping Public Safety Officials Manage Oklahoma's Hazardous Weather: The New OK-First Weather Briefing Webpage" at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the National Weather Association in Oklahoma City, OK

2016: OK-First launches the "OK-First Weather Briefing Webpage" - the 4th version of the Mesonet's highly successful decision support webpages for OK-First participants