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 entitled "OKlahoma's First-response Information Resource System using Telecommunications." 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.

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 a new version 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.

2009: Following requests of members, OK-First launches a new, radar-only software application called RadarFirst.

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 or Assistant Certification training.

2014: OK-First launches a new website, which includes new individual log-in's and a 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 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 latest decision support page for the OK-First community.

2018: OK-First is honored with a commendation from Governor Mary Fallin acknowledging 20-years of service to Oklahoma's public safety community.

2018: The OK-First program is featured in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society in its October issue with an article entitled "The Evolution and Impact of a Meteorological Outreach Program for Public Safety Officials: An Update on the Oklahoma Mesonet's OK-First Program."

2019: OK-First surpasses more than 1,500 public safety officials having completed OK-First Certification or Assistant Certification training.

2020: In the fall OK-First provides its first-ever completely online season of classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

2021: OK-First Program Manager James Hocker is awarded the "Public Education Award" from the National Weather Association for "Ten years of leadership of the OK-First Program including the direct training of thousands of safety officials as well as ensuring access to critical real-time weather data for decision making."

2021: OK-First achieves its largest annual training total in program history (554 attendees).

2022: OK-First Program Manager James Hocker and Oklahoma Mesonet Outreach Coordinator Andrea Melvin are honored with the Oklahoma Emergency Management Association’s “Outstanding Contributor to Emergency Management” for their work with OK-First.

2023: The Oklahoma Mesonet Outreach Team is recognized by the Online Consortium of Oklahoma with the Online Excellence Award for Team Leadership.

2023: OK-First surpasses more than 2,000 public safety officials successfully completing OK-First Certification or Assistant Certification.