DHS gets green light for NOAA warnings

NOAA Weather Radio

Officials at the Homeland Security Department's Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection directorate and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration signed an agreement today permitting DHS to send all-hazards alerts through NOAA's public warning system.

The agreement allows DHS to develop an alert and warning message that can be delivered through NOAA's All-Hazards Network to affected areas. The system can reach 97 percent of the country around-the-clock through broadcasts in 50 states, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam and Saipan.

Radios and televisions equipped with Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME) allow listeners to preselect categories of alerts they want to receive. SAME codes are special digital codes at the beginning and end of messages about hazardous events. The main purpose is to provide enough information before and after a message is broadcast so software routines can match preprogrammed user instructions. It significantly "improves the automatic selection and distribution of messages about events that threaten people and/or property," according to NOAA's Web site.

The NOAA system would continue to broadcast weather forecasts and warnings about severe storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, volcanic activity, chemical spills and biohazardous releases, terrorist attacks and Amber Alerts in some states.

The agreement also allows DHS officials to distribute messages nationwide via the Federal Emergency Management Administration's Emergency Alert System.

"Critical information will now be available when people most need it," said retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad Lautenbacher, the Commerce Department's undersecretary for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. "What began as NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts now extends to a range of products and all-hazards purposes. It's gratifying to know that many more lives can now be better protected."

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