Today, legislation to modernize the National Weather Service’s (NWS) outdated emergency communications network – NWS Chat – and originally sponsored by U.S. Rep. Randy Feenstra (R-Hull) passed out of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee by a unanimous voice vote. It now proceeds to the House Floor for a full vote by the entire Congress.
“I am excited that my National Weather Service Communications Improvement Act unanimously passed the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee,” said Rep. Feenstra. “Iowans are no strangers to severe weather – particularly tornadoes and derechos – that can devastate communities and livelihoods. This bipartisan legislation will finally ensure that NWS has a functional and reliable emergency communications system that keeps Iowans informed and out of harm’s way.”
In light of recent storms across Iowa and the Midwest, the National Weather Service Communications Improvement Act would direct the NWS Director to review and select an off-the-shelf commercial alternative to NWS Chat that prioritizes reliability and security, and disseminates critical, time-sensitive information to broadcasters, emergency managers, and the general public in a timely manner.
As part of its Integrated Dissemination Program update, NWS has identified several systematic upgrades critical to its emergency communications operation, including the need to replace NWS Chat.