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Friday, June 2, 2023

Bipartisan Bills Introduced to Modernize Nation’s Weather Alert Radio, Instant Messaging Service

Earlier this year, National Weather Service weather radio transmitters in Nashville and Knoxville went down and were unable to send critical weather alerts to residents during storms.

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, and Ranking Member Ted Cruz (R-Texas) have introduced the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio Modernization Act and the National Weather Service Communications Improvement Act, two national weather bills aimed at modernizing the nation’s weather communication and radio service as the country faces increased weather disasters.

“As severe weather events, wildfires and climate-related emergencies increase across the nation, local communities need reliable, real-time alerts to keep their families safe and homes secure,” said Sen. Cantwell. “Together, these bipartisan bills would upgrade the National Weather Service’s transmission technology, expand radio alert coverage in rural communities, and repair weather radio stations across the country, including 17 stations in the State of Washington.”

“When severe storms take out communications systems in Texas and other states, Americans need a reliable hazard communication system to inform them about how to stay safe. These bills would modernize NOAA’s Weather Radio so that we have fully functioning, reliable early warning systems and the ability to reach Texans with the information they need during disasters,” said Sen. Cruz.

The NOAA Weather Radio Modernization Act would:

  • Require upgrades to outdated weather radio technology to provide reliable and continuous weather and emergency alerts.
  • Expand radio coverage to rural areas that do not currently have access to the National Weather Radio alert system.
  • Increase National Weather Radio coverage to reach 98-99% of the United States population.
  • Update National Weather Radio infrastructure and reduce reliance on copper wire transmissions – which are increasingly unreliable because copper is impacted by extreme temperature changes and severe weather.

The National Weather Service Communications Improvement Act would:

  • Improve the National Weather Service’s internal instant messaging system.
  • Implement a modern cloud system to accommodate more users and faster service. 

As many states continue to battle severe weather — several communities have faced weather radio outages, including earlier this year when National Weather Service weather radio transmitters in Nashville and Knoxville went down and were unable to send critical weather alerts to residents during storms. In 2022, the United States experienced 18 weather and climate-related disaster events that exceeded one billion dollars in damages each, resulting in nearly 500 deaths and $171.5 billion in damages.

NOAA’s National Weather Service operates a nationwide network of public radio stations that broadcast weather warnings, forecasts and emergency information 24/7. NOAA Weather Radio includes more than 1,000 transmitters, covering all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the U.S. Pacific Territories. Broadcasts include warnings, watches and forecasts for natural disasters like storms, fires, earthquakes, avalanches and even environmental hazards such as chemical or oil spills. According to NOAA, more than 400 National Weather Service transmitters will need to be replaced in the next five years.

Read more at the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation

Homeland Security Todayhttp://www.hstoday.us
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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