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  • Writer's picturejeannettesutton

Should I send a WEA for a weather event?

Sheriff's WEA issued on 6/29/2023

(click image to enlarge)

The National Weather Service has the authority and responsibility to issue WEAs for 9 hazards (click here for the list) . As the authority, they determine when thresholds have been met for a particular hazard and when messages are issued in an automated fashion. To the left, you see a FLASH FLOOD WARNING message that shows the consistent content and format for every flash flood warning that will be issued by NWS. Notably, it indicates the hazard, the impact, and the protective action guidance. It will also include the actual time of the event, which I have left blank in this example. What is not included in a WEA from NWS is the location of the threat. And this is where an alerting authority can add value. Local authorities have clear knowledge of the local geography, roadways, and high population areas. With that knowledge they can increase the specificity of the message content. They can also offer content about where people can find additional information or how to get help if needed. Doing this in coordination with the NWS will show that the AA is aware of and prepared to respond to an emerging threat. The Warn Room does have some comments about the message posted here by the Sheriff... the NWS did not issue a flash flood warning for this area on this day and it appears that this was not an imminent threat. Instead this was an event that the Sheriff was observing and determined that people needed to prepare. The use of "warning" in the message leads to a type of inconsistency among messaging authorities - the Sheriff appears to be issuing a type of "watch" but uses the Wireless Emergency Alert channel instead of other platforms. Authorized WEA users will likely have policy disagreements about whose role it is to issue an alert, for what threats, and when. FEMA-IPAWS does not have a policy about when the WEA channel can be used, by whom, and why. Concerns about over-alerting certainly are valid, especially when NWS has the precedent for issuing weather-related warnings. The Warn Room bottom line (for today): if you're going to issue a WEA for a weather event, do it in coordination with the local NWS Weather Forecast Office and provide content that ADDS VALUE rather than creating confusion among message receivers and potential conflict between alerting authorities.


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