Multi-Hazard Early Warning System of the United States National Weather Service
The United States began to develop its national early warning system in the late 1940s as part of the post-war effort to invest in reducing the impact of tropical cyclones, flooding, tornadoes, drought, winter storms, severe hail and wind, tsunamis and other hazards that threatened its citizens. Initial steps included the erection of a network of weather surveillance radars, the creation of regional river forecast centers and the development of a comprehensive, multi-agency emergency broadcast system. Those initiatives were followed by the creation of the National Response Framework, the Incident Command System, the multi-channel Emergency Alert System, and policies at the federal, state and local level that promoted broader hazard awareness, risk reduction and emergency preparedness.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service is authorized by statute and Executive Order to forecast and issue alerts and warnings associated with hydrometeorological events as well as tsunamis. This mission is achieved through dedicated, long-term partnerships with other federal agencies (most notably the United States Geological Survey, United States Army Corps of Engineers, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency), which leverage the expertise and infrastructure throughout the Federal Government. Simultaneously, the National Science Foundation and other federal and state-level funding sources promote university-led advancements in early warning methods and technology and training of young engineers, hydrologists, meteorologists, computer scientists, etc.
While the various hazard-specific early warning systems in the United States were not originally designed as a part of a single, multi-hazard system, they share common elements and are linked with the country’s varied emergency response systems. The National Response Framework guides the institutional coordination and cooperation associated with planning and response to major emergencies. Specific capabilities have been developed to address threats from low-probability/high-impact events such as tsunamis, tropical cyclones, earthquakes, volcanoes, and even terrorism.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of the United States Department of Homeland Security in partnership with dozens of state and local emergency management agencies, 27 federal agencies, the private sector, the American Red Cross and other non-governmental organizations, plays a crucial role in assisting citizens to build, sustain, and improve the Nation’s capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards. FEMA’s coordination and cooperation with partner institutions often dictates the response to major emergency events. No other federal agency has a greater role than FEMA in helping the Nation mitigate and prepare for hazards.
Multi-hazard early warning systems are only as good as their weakest subsystem. Like many other countries, the United States has learned that unless its multi-hazard early warning system functions from “end-to-end”, avoidable losses and suffering may still occur. Its most spectacular lesson in recent years was Hurricane Katrina – a hazard scenario that was recognized well in advance. The failures in the Nation’s early warning system during that event are widely acknowledged to have occurred because of weaknesses in risk awareness, warning/communications, and response, despite strengths in forecasting. Other emergencies, especially major disasters such as Hurricane Andrew (1992), the Great Midwest Flood (1993), the Northridge Earthquake (1994), and the 9/11 Terror Attacks (2001), have inspired improvements in emergency preparedness, risk awareness, and hazard mitigation.
It is not necessary for these lessons to be painfully re-learned by others around the world. The National Weather Service hopes that this document improves global understanding in the good practices of institutional coordination and cooperation as they relate to multi-hazard early warning systems.
KeywordsTropical Cyclone Early Warning System Federal Communication Commission Homeland Security Federal Emergency Management Agency
- COMET MetEd MultiHazard Warning Systems: http://www.meted.ucar.edu/hazwarnsys.phpGoogle Scholar
- Department of Homeland Security: www.dhs.govGoogle Scholar
- FEMA’s Progress in All-Hazards Mitigation: http://www.dhs.gov/xoig/assets/mgmtrpts/OIG_10-03_Oct09.pdfGoogle Scholar
- Federal Emergency Management Agency: www.fema.govGoogle Scholar
- NRF Resource Center: http://www.fema.gov/emergency/nrf/Google Scholar
- National Response Framework: http://www.fema.gov/pdf/emergency/nrf/nrf-core.pdfGoogle Scholar
- List of Authorities and References: http://www.fema.gov/pdf/emergency/nrf/nrf-authorities.pdfGoogle Scholar
- Stafford Act Support to States: http://www.fema.gov/pdf/emergency/nrf/nrf-stafford.pdfGoogle Scholar
- Overview of Federal-to-Federal Support in Non-Stafford Act Situations: http://www.fema.gov/pdf/emergency/nrf/nrf-fedtofed.pdfGoogle Scholar
- Emergency Support Function, Support and Incident Annexes, and Partner Guides: http://www.fema.gov/emergency/nrf/Google Scholar
- National Incident Management System: http://www.fema.gov/pdf/emergency/nims/NIMS_core.pdfGoogle Scholar
- Hazard Mitigation Planning Risk Assessment: http://www.fema.gov/plan/mitplanning/risk.shtmGoogle Scholar
- Government Accountability Office: www.gao.govGoogle Scholar
- GAO Report to Congressional Committees on EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS, March 2007;Google Scholar
- Current Emergency Alert System Has Limitations, and Development of a New Integrated System Will Be Challenging www.gao.gov/new.items/d07411.pdfGoogle Scholar
- Implementation Support Services for FEMA Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS): https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&tab=core&id=18eca683f41a39d2922bace118e66178&_cview=1Google Scholar
- Lazo, J.K., Morrs, R.E., and Demuth, J.L. (2009). 300 Billion Served – Sources, Perceptions, Uses and Values of Weather Forecasts, Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.Google Scholar
- National Hazard Center http://www.colorado.edu/hazards/Google Scholar
- NWS Directives: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/directivesGoogle Scholar
- NWS Service Assessment: Central United States Flooding of June 2008 (Draft Report, 2009)Google Scholar
- OCWWS Service Assessments: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/os/assessments/index.shtmlGoogle Scholar
- OCWWS Natural Hazard Statistics: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/hazstats.shtmlGoogle Scholar
- Rubin, Clair B. (2006). Emergency Management: The American Experience 1900–2005. Public Entity Risk Institute, Fairfax, Virginia.Google Scholar
- Streeter, Sandy (2007). CRS Report for Congress The Congressional Appropriations Process: An Introduction. http://www.senate.gov/reference/resources/pdf/97-684.pdf.Google Scholar
- Service Assessment – Super Tuesday Tornado Outbreak of February 5–6, 2008: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/os/assessments/pdfs/super_tuesday.pdfGoogle Scholar