SEATTLE - When a disaster strikes, first responders want to know what weather conditions might get in the way of effective response -- whether it's icy roads, flooded rivers or record heat.

That is why when the Washington National Guard Homeland Response Force had the chance to tour the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Western Regional Center in Seattle, they took the opportunity knowing they could learn from the experts.

"I had previously met Reid Wolcott, warning coordination meteorologist, at meetings and training exercises and understand that they play an important role during emergencies and that they have plenty of capabilities that can be useful and helpful to us," said Capt Luis Torres. "My thought process was to increase the awareness and knowledge of the capabilities of the 10th HRF to Reid and his co-workers at NOAA's National Weather Service and vice versa."

NOAA's Western Regional Center houses the largest variety of NOAA programs at a single location in the United States. Its mission is to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans and coasts, to share that with others, and to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources.

"Reid shared a lot of information with us and with our intelligence staff," said Torres. "He showed us how we could utilize the resources available better."

The NOAA staff showed HRF members where to find high-accuracy weather reports, spot forecasts tailored to different types of incidents, including hazardous material events and wildfires, and the best place to find the most accurate models.

"The information provided by these resources is critical to anticipating weather's effects on hazardous material incidents and our response operations during an incident," said Sgt. 1st Class James Peters.

The HRF's mission is to rapidly deploy with a full suite of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense capabilities while supporting state and federal authorities. With the ability to mobilize more than 570 Guard members to an incident, the HRF can provide mass decontamination, medical triage, security, search and extraction, fatality recovery, communications and command and control.

The HRF is building relationships with NOAA and continues to work closely with the Washington Emergency Management Division, including employee Patrick Wicklund, who conducts hazmat and continuity of government planning.

"Having Patrick Wicklund in our office is great; it allows face-to-face time that I think is taken for granted," said Torres. "It is mutually beneficial. He shares with us, we share with him. Patrick came to NOAA with us."

The goal of the meetings was to continue building relationships among the Guard and emergency management and weather professionals.

"I would like to take this one step further and set something up with our Air National Guard weather folks that are attached to the HRF and any others that are interested," said Torres. "These meetings engage our community and develop relationships that will allow us to more effectively respond to emergencies in our state."