Watch vs. Warning: Do You Know Your National Weather Service Emergency Notifications?

Category - General
by Ann Holtzapple on May 18th, 2015

When a storm is bearing down upon you or another emergency is imminent, access to prompt, accurate and reliable information is essential. However, finding this data and decoding it can often be a challenge. Let’s take a closer look at how to get the information you need in order to prepare for whatever’s headed your way.

A component of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA), the National Weather Service (NWS) “provide[s] weather, water, and climate data, forecasts and warnings for the protection of life and property.” The ultimate goal? A “weather-ready nation.”

Typically, all watches and warnings are based on science with the intent of providing enough time for evacuation and other protective measures, as necessary. Common NWS alerts include:

  • Hurricane/Tropical Storm Watch
    This alert is typically delivered 48 hours before storm conditions are expected to materialize with the intent of giving people enough time to start conducting preparedness activities.
  • Hurricane/Tropical Storm Warning
    This alert is issued when tropical storm or hurricane weather conditions are expected to begin with 36 hours. This allows ample advance warning for people to complete their storm preparations, as well as to evacuate if instructed to do so by local officials.
  • Extreme Wind Warning
    Extreme wind warnings notify residents of imminent winds associated with Category 3 hurricanes and above. While this alert is typically valid for a short period of time — two hours or less — it carries with it a very high threat of casualties.
  • Other Alerts
    Tropical storms and hurricanes comprise a number of different hazards, including everything from floods to thunderstorms to tornadoes.  Accordingly, the NWS may issue additional alerts to encompass these threats.
  • Evacuation Notice
    If state or local government officials determine that the threat of danger is significant, they may issue a notice — voluntary or mandatory — to evacuate.

NWS alerts are conveyed by the NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards (NWR), which broadcasts 365 days out of the year; this information is also accessible via local television and radio stations.  And while watches and warnings may seem premature, they’re anything but. In fact, waiting for incontrovertible confirmation that a storm or other catastrophic event is headed your way can lead to a number of life-threatening dangers, including the inability to evacuate, high winds, and flooding.

Unfortunately, tuning in to the NWR to monitor alert notifications is an imprecise method of communication. How do you know when to listen to get the information you need? What if you miss important data because you’re not near a radio at a critical point in time?  One Call Now offers an invaluable alternative. Rather than relying on individuals to tune in to gain access to essential information, this innovative solution delivers time-sensitive information via a recipient’s language of choice and preferred method of delivery — recorded voice, SMS text or email. The result? Comprehensive, real-time mass emergency notifications aimed at minimizing lapses in communication and maximizing safety and wellbeing.


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