Improved technology in measuring atmospheric changes also became a part of the disaster management equation. In 1970, the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries, Weather Bureau, Coast and Geodetic Survey, Environmental Data Service, and several related agencies were combined to form the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). A division of the U.S. Department of Commerce, NOAA’s role is to provide research and information about the atmosphere, as well as to educate the public about the conditions that could prompt natural disasters to take place.

One way NOAA measured atmospheric conditions was through satellites. The first NOAA satellite was launched in 1975; a polar-orbiting satellite was launched four years later. At present, NOAA operates 16 meteorological satellites. These satellites measure cloud cover, storm activity, and heat indices as aids in predicting the weather across the United States.

Predicting storms is one of NOAA’s most important jobs. Often, when storms hit, the deaths and injuries that result are caused by inadequate warning. A quick-moving hurricane or thunderstorm can wreak severe damage with little time for people to escape its path. In 1999 NOAA launched its StormReady program for cities across the United States. StormReady is a hazard preparedness program in which NOAA works with local governments to establish emergency operations centers that include local warning systems and a means of receiving up-to-date weather reports. In 2002 NOAA added TsunamiReady to the StormReady program. TsunamiReady measures ocean activity and helps increase preparedness of coastal cities that are in potential danger in case of tsunami activity. As of January 2006 nearly 1,000 communities had StormReady programs and 26 communities on both the East and West Coast were deemed TsunamiReady cities.

Inside NOAA