WASHINGTON—The National Weather Service wants three new event codes added to the Emergency Alert System. The NWS asked the Federal Communications Commission to add codes for extreme wind and storm surges, plus a revision on the territorial location codes for two offshore marine areas. The FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the request July 10.
“NWS requests that the commission add a new ‘Extreme Wind Warning’—EWW—event code to provide the public with advance notice of the onset of extreme sustained surface winds greater than or equal to 115 miles per hour associated with a major land-falling hurricane [of] category 3 or higher,” the NPRM states.
The NWS said that “Tornado Warning,” or TOR event code, was the “only available code to warn of high winds” in 2004, when Hurricane Charley ripped through Southwest Florida with winds up to 150 miles per hour. The TOR code “caused confusion” when the EAS was triggered to deliver high wind warnings, the NWS said.
The NWS subsequently started using the EWW code during the 2007 hurricane season, but it said EAS participants are “reluctant to add and relay the new event code via the EAS, fearing FCC averse action” if the FCC doesn’t make it an official component of the Part 11 EAS rules.
While Part 11 does contain codes for “Hurricane Warning” (HUW) and “Hurricane Watch” (HUA), “those codes apply generally to the hurricane event itself, and are no specifically tailored to warn of extreme sustained surface winds associated with a Category 3 hurricane,” the NPRM said.
NWS also requested codes for “Storm Surge Watch” (SSA) and “Storm Surge Warning” (SSW).NWS said the Storm Surge Watch/Warning codes would be issued “when there is a significant risk of life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland from the ocean.”
In the event of a storm surge, a watch code—SSA—would be issued 48 hours in advance of the event taking place and a warning—SSW—would be issued 36 hours in advance of the event. Storm surges, it noted are the leading cause of death in tropical cyclones.
“Storm surge losses in the hundreds or thousands of lives have occurred in every coastal state from Texas to South Carolina, and in some states north of there,” the NPRM said, citing the National Hurricane Center.
NWS said current Hurricane Watch/Warning codes do not “provide clear or sufficient information to allow citizens to determine if they are threatened by wind or storm surge or both.”
The NWS said around 90 percent of all EAS activations are generated by the National Weather Service and relate to short-term weather events.Both the National Hurricane Center and the Federal Emergency Management Administration support the addition of the codes to the FCC’s Part 11 EAS rules.
The FCC is seeking comments on the addition of the codes and the associated costs. EAS manufacturer Monroe Electronics and Sage Alerting Systems said it could be done with a download on most EAS device models. Sage noted that it had one EAS device model in the field that no longer can support software upgrades, however. Consequently, the FCC is asking if there are coastal regions where EAS participants have equipment that cannot accommodate the new codes.
The commission is proposing that EAS device makers incorporate new codes into equipment and provide software upgrades to their customers within six months of the adoption of the rules, which are not yet officially in the comment cycle until the NPRM is published in the Federal Register.
The commission also is proposing changes to the geographic descriptions for location codes No. 75 and 77, which cover Florida, the Caribbean Gulf of Mexico, and the U.S. Gulf Coast from the Mexican border to Ocean Reef, Fla. The changes would better align these areas with those defined by the NWS.
Comments on the docket, No. 15-94, are due 30 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register. Replies are due 15 days later.
The following Event (EEE) codes are presently authorized:
Nature of activation
National Codes (Required):
Emergency Action Notification (National only)
National Information Center
National Periodic Test
Required Monthly Test
Required Weekly Test
State and Local Codes (Optional):
Child Abduction Emergency
Civil Danger Warning
Civil Emergency Message
Coastal Flood Warning
Coastal Flood Watch
Dust Storm Warning
Extreme Wind Warning
Flash Flood Warning
Flash Flood Watch
Flash Flood Statement
Hazardous Materials Warning
High Wind Warning
High Wind Watch
Law Enforcement Warning
Local Area Emergency
Network Message Notification
911 Telephone Outage Emergency
Nuclear Power Plant Warning
Radiological Hazard Warning
Severe Thunderstorm Warning
Severe Thunderstorm Watch
Severe Weather Statement
Shelter in Place Warning
Special Marine Warning
Special Weather Statement
Storm Surge Watch
Storm Surge Warning
Tropical Storm Warning
Tropical Storm Watch
Winter Storm Warning
Winter Storm Watch
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