Historically the delivery of emergency messages to the public was primarily through broadcast media and NOAA Weather Radio. With the growth in smart technology and social media there has been a proliferation in methods for delivering emergency weather information. Providers of emergency weather communication services range from governmental to media outlets to private-sector individuals. While these services provide valuable communication improvements to the warning system, there are no enterprise-wide established guidelines in place to ensure that the services provided are timely and accurate. These Best Practices represent the next step in encouraging the continued collaboration and cooperation between the various sectors of America’s Weather, Water, and Climate Enterprise to ensure the public receives the highest quality warnings.
The best practices are intended to be for the benefit of the public; thus, the audience includes the general public as well as providers of weather alerting services, both public and private sector.
One of the most important roles of the weather enterprise is to provide timely and accurate warnings to the public. The public is far better off today in receiving warnings than they were 20 years ago, when the only way to receive a warning was via radio, television, or sirens. The many new ways to receive warnings offer tremendous upside so long as information remains coordinated. In most cases, the National Weather Service (NWS) produces and issues warnings through various dissemination channels and the private sector also disseminates or communicates those warnings to the public. Because of the short-term nature of many warnings and the associated imminent hazardous weather, it is of great importance that NWS warnings are relayed to the public in as timely a fashion as possible and that the warnings are for the same geographic location warned by the NWS. While it is important that all warnings are actually relayed to the public, users can be given the ability to filter warnings to those most appropriate for their use
The National Weather Service is the official government source for weather warnings. Many private-sector weather information companies produce their own warnings in addition to relaying government warnings. Guidelines for adding distinctiveness between public-sector and private-sector warning messages are addressed below.
Any company or organization that disseminates NWS warnings to the public via web pages, e-mail, telephone, push notification to mobile devices, SMS text messages, or other means should take care to ensure that those warnings are provided from an infrastructure that can handle the number of alerts that must be sent to the consuming public. Caution must be used to adapt quickly when a particular technology can no longer guarantee successful dissemination of warnings. Care must also be taken to ensure that all NWS warnings are received from the NWS and decoded in a timely manner.
Of particular concern are occasions when hazardous weather occurs over large areas simultaneously. In such cases, companies that disseminate warnings may experience volumes of alerts that are much higher than that of an average day. Yet these are the same days when receiving weather alerts is especially critical. Thus, it is a best practice to have a fully redundant computing and communication capability that can handle a significantly enhanced volume of in-bound and outbound warnings that is handled on an average day. To ensure timeliness, the computing infrastructure should have the capability to disseminate all warnings to the public within 2 minutes of receipt from the NWS in peak scenarios.
Therefore, applications that distribute warning information should have the capability to use at least two, and preferably three, distinctive methods to disseminate the message to its user. Examples of such methods may include an SMS message broker to ensure SMS messages are sent in a timely fashion along with emails, push notifications to a mobile application, phone calls, or cell broadcasts.
Cellular providers should work closely with America’s Weather, Water, and Climate Enterprise to explore better capabilities to distribute life- and property-threatening information to the public.
The above best practices have been established to ensure a robust delivery of weather warning information to the public. Any questions concerning these best practices should be addressed to the Board of Best Practices at:
[This statement is considered in force until January 2023 unless superseded by a new statement issued by the AMS Council before this date]