The National Weather Service has a program called Storm Spotters. This link explains it and tells how to locate free class locations on your local NWS web site.
The training is available free to the general public. If there are too many trainees, NWS may limit it to those with some kind of public service affiliation. I attend because I'm a HAM radio operator and my farm is on the western side of the watch area. I've seen my reports show up on local TV within 5 minutes of reporting, though most are simply folded into the general reports.
The two hour training class gives an excellent description of severe weather like tornatodes and severe thunderstorms. It helps you understand what you are looking at and because of that you know better what is likely to happen and how to react to it. The training in our area is excellent and very interesting.
We do not go out looking for storms. All my reporting is from my own farm, usually on my HAM radio, but it can also be by telephone or internet (hopefully they are still working).
If the only reason to take it was to better look out for your own family it would be worth the two hour class.
Here is a web site that shows the training classes for the Quad City NWS area.
Here's a page for eastern NC. As you will note, each NWS office has a little different format and terminology, making it a litle confusing at first glance.
Re: Storm Spotter
Thanks for the inof, Jim. I surfed over to the link, and it looks like a good reason to drive to Raleigh.
We are pretty much satellite-based for communications here...but do keep backup power sources, so are not dependent upon the utilities in the short run to stay in contact. Is it important for them to know things like that?
Re: Storm Spotter
The NWS people may issue a Storm Spotter credential if they'd like you to report to them. Around here, they look for people to report rain, snow, hail, winds and such, not just severe weather. If they would like you as a Storm Spotter, they may like to know you have standby power. I imagine each NWS office has their own procedures. If you want to know about the training, ask one of your local police, fire, EMT and so forth for a first hand report. One of them will have attended and can let you know their assessment before you make the trip.