The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) want you to be a “Force of Nature” when it comes to preparedness.
A helpful downloadable media toolkit is available to help you promote National Severe Weather Preparedness Week in your community. The toolkit includes: background information on how to take the next step, talking points, a blog post template, an Op-Ed, and a Social Media toolkit including content to share on Twitter and Facebook.
With the recent severe weather warnings sent by the National Weather Service via the new CMAS/WEA system, it is drawing attention to what constitutes a severe weather situation. The NWS has four categories of weather situations, but what is the difference between them?
- Winter Storm Outlook – This is an advance notice of winter storm conditions that are possible in the next 2 to 5 days.
- Winter Weather Advisory – This is also an advance notice but with a caution that winter weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences and may be hazardous.
- Winter Storm Watch – This is a more immediate notice that winter storm conditions are possible within the next 36 to 48 hours. Those who are notified of a watch should review their winter storm plans and stay informed about weather conditions.
- Winter Storm Warning – This is an immediate notice of life threatening severe winter conditions that have begun or will begin within 24 hours and precautions should be taken immediately.
The National Weather Service is currently requesting input on potential changes to how these messages are worded in the future. As an example, a proposed alternative term would change a “watch” notice to “forecasts the potential for” a weather event. The survey is open until March 31, 2013.
Visit the American Red Cross website to read more about preparing for Winter Storms and other types of emergency situations.
The first full-scale test of the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) / Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) occurred during Hurricane Sandy. The National Weather Service (NWS) issued CMAS/WEA alerts via FEMA’s IPAWS system across the eastern seaboard in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine.
Even when cellular networks are overloaded and no longer support person-to-person calls, text, or emails, cell phones can receive CMAS/WEA alerts.
The alerts are short 90-character, text-like messages that alert people in three types of emergency situations; Presidential Alerts issued by the President or a designee, Imminent Threat Alerts that include severe weather or natural disasters, and AMBER Alerts.
Most major commercial mobile service providers are now selling CMAS capable phones with the service already opted-in so that the public does not need to sign up to receive the alerts. CMAS alerts do not trigger charges for the alerting authority sending the message nor the individual receiving it.
Cell phone owners with a CMAS-capable mobile device physically located in an area where an alert has been sent will have the ability to receive the alert.
Some examples of messages received during Hurricane Sandy include:
“Blizzard Warning this area til 6:00 PM EDT Tue. Prepare. Avoid Travel. Check media. –NWS”
“Go indoors immediately and remain inside. DO NOT DRIVE. Call 9-1-1 for emergencies only.”
“Flash Flood Warning this area til 3:45 PM EDT. Avoid flood areas. Check local media. –NWS”
Most new mobile devices are CMAS/WEA capable, but it is important to note that they are typically smartphones and not older style phones. It can also depend on the carrier network capability. For example, AT&T customers with iPhones do not yet have this capability, but iPhone users with Verizon do.
For more information, please download our White Paper “What is IPAWS?”
To read more about how CMAS/WEA messages were received during Hurricane Sandy: