DHS to piggyback on NOAA radio alert system

The Homeland Security Department and the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have signed an agreement under which DHS will send all-hazards alerts directly through NOAA's radio network.

NOAA's All-Hazards Network, which started as NOAA Weather Radio, now will be able to deliver homeland security information to national, regional or local radio audiences, DHS said.

The network will continue to carry messages from the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Emergency Alert System, which also uses broadcast television screen crawls and messages via interruptions in local radio broadcasts.

DHS officials had discussed the possibility of piggybacking on the NOAA system months ago.

State and local emergency operations centers use the NOAA alert system, as do many public schools, the department said.

'Critical information will now be available when people most need it,' said Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere. '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.'

The NOAA system reaches more than 97 percent of the country's territory around the clock.

The all-hazards system already carries news about extreme weather, earthquakes, volcanoes, chemical spills, bio-hazard events and, in some states, Amber Alerts about missing children, DHS said. Special populations such as the disabled or elderly can connect to the system via plug-ins to attention-getting devices such as strobe lights, pagers, bed-shakers, PCs and text printers.

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