Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce signed an agreement that allows Homeland Security to send critical all-hazards alerts and warnings directly through the NOAA All-Hazards Network. The Network supplements the existing alert and warning resources and the capability serves as an additional delivery mechanism for sending life-saving information nationally, regionally or locally. In addition, Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will continue to manage the Emergency Alert System (EAS) that includes the NOAA All – Hazards Network.
“This agreement is an example of interagency cooperation that takes advantage of existing capabilities that can now be applied to protect the homeland from both man-made and natural disasters,” said Lt. Gen. Frank Libutti USMC (Ret.), Under Secretary for Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection, Department of Homeland Security. “We feel strongly that the ability to put redundant systems and capabilities in place increases the likelihood that emergency information is delivered to targeted populations with minimal delay.”
“Critical information will now be available when people most need it,” said Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher USN (Ret.), Under Secretary of Commerce 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.”
Under this agreement, Homeland Security now has the authority to develop an alert and warning message that can be delivered directly to NOAA and broadcast to affected areas. The system is capable of reaching over 97 percent of the United States territory on a 24/7 basis through broadcasts in 50 states, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, and Saipan. Radios and televisions currently equipped with SAME (Specific Area Message Encoding) allow listeners to pre-select the categories of alerts they wish to receive in chosen listening areas. Broadcast receivers are located in emergency operations centers and many public sites and workplaces. Public Schools in some states are similarly equipped.
In addition, the agreement provides that same message, distributed through NOAA, will be distributed locally or nationally over FEMA’s Emergency Alert System (EAS) at the local level which Americans regularly view as a crawl on the bottom of their television screens and is broadcast over local radio stations.
“This agreement furthers a long-standing relationship with NOAA and enhances the federal government’s ability to provide American communities the information needed in times of emergency,” said Michael D. Brown, Under Secretary for Emergency Preparedness and Response, Department of Homeland Security. “While Homeland Security’s Emergency Alert System will continue to be the backbone of our alert and warning notifications, we’re pleased to develop additional means of communicating with citizens.”
Beyond the new capability to broadcast Homeland Security Alerts and warnings coupled with protective measure information, the NOAA system will continue to broadcast weather forecasts and warnings, including news about severe storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and volcanic activity; chemical spills and bio-hazardous releases; and, in some states, Amber Alerts. Special populations such as the disabled or the elderly can connect NOAA All-Hazards radios via plug-ins to attention-getting devices, such as strobe lights, pagers, bed-shakers, personal computers and text printers.