Brad Schaaf

Brad Schaaf

Brad Schaaf 
National Weather Service

Location:  Medford, Oregon
Office: National Weather Service, Medford
Job Title:  Lead Meteorologist

Educational Background:

  • I have a Bachelors of Science in Meteorology from Florida State University and Associate’s Degree from Kishwaukee College.

Describe the career path that led you to your current job with the National Weather Service.

  • I took an operational meteorology course taught by a lead forecaster at NWS Tallahassee as an undergraduate at Florida State University, which piqued my interest in operational meteorology. Although I started graduate school during the hiring freeze of 2010, I quickly learned that research meteorology was not for me. I left graduate school and began working as a meteorologist for the Florida Division of Emergency Management in 2012, where I learned about weather communications from the partner perspective. 

    The knowledge and support I received from the folks at FDEM prepared me for moving into the National Weather Service as an intern stationed in the Medford, Oregon office in 2014. I fell in love with the area and worked hard to be one of the first GS-11s to be promoted to GS-12 through the new 5 through 12 program. From there, I spent time honing my relationship building skills and was promoted to Lead Forecaster in 2022.

What do you do for the NWS?

  • As a lead forecaster, I look after the operations floor and ensure the forecasts we issue are helpful to our partners. This involves leading Integrated Weather Teams of partners and staff to continuously build relationships and showcase our capabilities. In addition, I am also the chair of the Western Region Belonging, Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity team. This team works to create training and other activities that focus on celebrating the diversity of our agency and promoting a healthy office culture of inclusion across the NWS.

What was the most interesting, exciting, or impactful weather/water event you experienced while working for the NWS and why does it stand out?

  • On September 8, 2020, several wildfires raged through southern Oregon, including in the smaller cities surrounding Medford. I was working the social media and public phones desk that day, monitoring a fire sweeping northward toward the city. Early on, I noted the wind directions and let my daycare provider know about the danger and to stay alert. A few hours later, I received a message from my daycare provider that she was evacuating with my 8 month old twins, and didn’t know how to get to safety. After the initial wave of panic, I looked online to find an open route to direct her to a safe meeting spot. My partner called me in a panic because he was on the phone with her and could hear the kids screaming in her car about the flames in the middle of town. I met the daycare provider at our designated meeting spot, and invited her and her family to stay at our house. No one got much sleep that night since we were afraid that their house had burned down and that we also might need to evacuate in the middle of the night.
    The thing that sticks out to me most about this experience is the amount of fear and confusion that was present amongst my family and the public. Despite our partners knowing about the possibility of extreme conditions several days in advance, the public was largely caught off guard. This sparked my initiative to change how the NWS communicates conditions that promote rapidly spreading fire with the public and our non-firefighting partners. This work continues to grow each year, and my goal is for our outreach programs to be so successful that no one else will go through the fear of losing their family during a weather tragedy.

What made you decide to pursue a career with the NWS?

  • I’ve always wanted to be a meteorologist since I can remember. However, my experience with the Florida Division of Emergency Management solidified my desire to be an NWS meteorologist. I learned how partners used the information from the National Weather Service to make decisions, and I witnessed the diversity of the relationships between 7 different NWS offices and their partners. Overall, I wanted to join the NWS because I believe in our mission. 

What do you like most about working for the NWS?

  • I love the people. Almost everyone in this agency wants each other to succeed, and they will step up to mentor each other. In addition, I’ve been working closely with Belonging, Inclusion, Diversity and Equity initiatives for the better part of 8 years and have seen the strides our agency has made in becoming a more inclusive workplace that focuses on a healthy culture. 

What advice do you have for someone interested in a career with the NWS?

  • Get involved with your nearest NWS office and ask someone to mentor you! There are always opportunities available – like the Pathways Student Program, Hollings Scholarship, and other volunteering opportunities. Be as flexible as you are able to be and take that chance. Most people are excited for the next generation to embark on their careers.

What training or coursework would you recommend to someone interested in following your career path?

  • I think a strong background in communications, graphic design, or computer science will be extremely helpful for folks looking at NWS careers. Most NWS employees wear many hats, and the meteorologist’s job is becoming more focused on helping partners understand our forecasts. 

Anything else you want to share?   

  • Going to community college before finishing my undergraduate degree was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I saved nearly $20,000 by obtaining my associate’s degree first, and I got to take my calculus, physics, and chemistry classes with an average of 20 people in each class.