Weather service offers to broadcast emergency alerts for DHS

To create a national all-hazards alert system, the National Weather Service is offering its radio infrastructure to the Homeland Security Department.

Barry West, CIO of the service, said his agency, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has a radio infrastructure that DHS can use to notify citizens across the country of emergency hazards and alerts. NOAA Weather Radio is a nationwide all-hazards network that includes more than 750 transmitters and broadcasts information 24 hours a day.

Officials at NWS and DHS are discussing how the radio network can be integrated into homeland security, West said at a breakfast sponsored by Federal Sources Inc. of McLean, Va. He said no strategy for using the radio network has been defined yet.

'We have the infrastructure in place,' he said. 'It won't be the end-all solution, but we feel that it's going to be a great infrastructure for them to use.'

Alabama to Wyoming

The radio network has been used to broadcast information about bad weather to citizens in 30 states, but West said it can easily be used to broadcast more than weather alerts. NWS plans to expand the network to all 50 states within the next two years.

West said one of the key advantages of the alert system is that it reaches people who do not have computers. Additionally, he said NWS is talking with manufacturers about integrating the system so televisions automatically turn on when an alert is issued.

West said DHS and NWS appear to have interoperable platforms and software.

'It's great. We're using a lot of the same technology,' he said. 'And we're already starting to share data. For instance, they've been paying AccuWeather for monthly data feeds for weather data. We're now in negotiations to provide that data to them for free.'

But West said both NWS and DHS want to ensure that the proper security and verification exists for sending alerts. He said DHS and the weather service will consider using the Federal e-Authentication Gateway to authenticate users.

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