The National Weather Service (NWS) is seeking comments from the public regarding simplified and clarified headline language for winter weather hazards. The demonstration is part of NWS’s Weather-Ready Nation initiative, with the goal of ensuring hazard messages are as clear and understandable as possible. The demonstration is driven by feedback from previous surveys, NWS service assessments, and user interactions indicating the public may be confused about the meaning and intent of the NWS’s “watch,” “warning,” and “advisory” terminology. Continue reading »

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Are you really getting the message?

On January 2, 2013, in Alerts & Warnings 101, Social Media, by with Altus Emergency Management

James Spann, a popular Alabama meteorologist and member of the popular online program “WeatherBrains“, posted recently about the popular social media site Facebook — and its shortcomings in the severe weather alerting process.

He has noted how the warning processes must get better.  At one point, he called for every outdoor warning device (the “tornado” siren) to be burned.  He notes that too many people rely on sirens before taking action.

People need THREE ways to get weather warnings.

There are at least two providers – MyStateUSA and offer nationwide alerting service for free. Additionally, providers such as offer the ability for groups to set up their own warning processes, as Craig’s Tech Blog discussed a few months back.

However, I have written on AWARE (here and here) that we should recognize and accept that social media (as anything technological) will have flaws.  In other words, Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus, have all gone down at one point or another.  Even sirens break.

More than one avenue for warnings is necessary. Three ways of getting severe weather warnings is the only option for the prepared citizen.  Social media, even Facebook, can serve in this area, of course. Even the trusty Amateur Radio can come to play here.

What are your three ways to get severe weather warnings?  Is the All-Hazards Weather Radio one of them?

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The high winds, heavy rain, and storm surges are dying down along the East Coast today. We have yet to account for the total damage done by Hurricane Sandy, and many areas of New York City are still flooded. Facing this devastation, it appears that local emergency managers and the National Weather Service made widespread use of the Commercial Mobile Alert Service (CMAS, also known as Wireless Emergency Alerts, or WEA).

Not surprisingly, the most Twitter chatter about CMAS has centered on the areas hardest hit by the storm, including New York, which used a CMAS message to issue an evacuation order of Zone A (those areas closest to water):

Impressed with @'s Wireless Emergency Alert for the mandatory evac of Zone A of NYC! #Sandy
James Patterson
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Social Media Resources for Monitoring Hurricane Sandy’s Path

On October 29, 2012, in News, by with SRA International

NASA satellite image of Hurricane Sandy

The East Coast of the U.S. will be experiencing a late-season hurricane this week, due to mix with a cold air mass to form what some have termed a “Frankenstorm“. As people are battening down the hatches and preparing for the worst from Hurricane Sandy, we thought it appropriate to provide a couple of quick resources you can use to monitor the storm’s path and impact. Aside from the major news outlets and of course the National Weather Service, these offer aggregated information and real-time updates sourced from across the areas affected by the storm.

Google Crisis Map has posted a crisis map of Hurricane Sandy that allows you to view multiple types of data overlaid on a map of the storm’s trajectory. Options include:

  • Weather radar
  • Up-to-date warnings and advisories across the eastern U.S.
  • Hurricane evacuation routes
  • Webcams and YouTube videos
  • Active emergency shelters


Twitter conversations about the hurricane appear are primarily using the hashtag #Sandy. However, as you will probably see if you watch traffic on that hashtag, it captures both authoritative posts as well as more trivial ones (such as celebrities’ posts about the hurricane). You can find more informative tweets with the general #wx tag, or by using your local weather hashtag–your state’s 2-letter abbreviation + “wx” (e.g., #PAwx for Pennsylvania weather).

As we continue to prepare for this storm, tell us what resources you will be using to track Sandy. Comment below or tweet to us at @AWAREforum.

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Picture from B. Monginoux /

Recently, a band of severe storms made its way from the Midwest to the East Coast, leading the National Weather Service (NWS) to issue a tornado warning to parts of Maryland.  Nearly five minutes after NWS issued their warning, the University of Maryland (UMD) campus alert system issued a tornado warning message to its subscriber base.  This delay is the subject of a recent article published by UMD’s student-run newspaper, The Diamondback.  The article, a first-hand account from the author, highlights the importance of receiving timely alerts and warnings.  In this case, the author received the alert message from various applications on his phone before he received the campus alert message.  Sometimes having more than one “tool in the toolbox” helps the public get the information they need in a timely fashion. Continue reading »

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