WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Randy Feenstra, R-Iowa, introduced bipartisan legislation to modernize the National Weather Service’s (NWS) outdated communications network – NWS Chat – which disseminates critical, time-sensitive information to broadcasters, emergency managers, and the general public during severe weather events. 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.
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.
“The National Weather Service must have a functional and reliable emergency communications system that keeps people informed and out of harm’s way during severe storms,” Feenstra said. “For too long, NWS Chat has failed our broadcasters, emergency response teams, and the general public. This bipartisan legislation will finally ensure that local officials and emergency personnel receive accurate, timely information that saves lives.”
Cosponsors of this bipartisan legislation include U.S. Reps. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa, Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, and Rep. Carlos Gimenez, R-Fla.
“During a severe weather event, every second matters, and ensuring the National Weather Service has the resources they need to modernize their communications has the potential to save lives,” Axne said. “While more work may need to be done, this bill will bring us one step closer to preventing further communication issues and ensuring that Iowans have the critical information they need to protect themselves, their families, and their property.”
“In early March, South Central Iowa saw the deadliest storm to hit our state in more than a decade. The storm ravaged communities like Chariton in my district, leaving many without homes, power, and access to water,” Miller-Meeks stated. “We need to make sure that the Weather Service has all the tools they need to support communities across the U.S. and help them prepare for potentially disastrous storms. I am proud to partner with the entire Iowa delegation to support our state and better prepare for future tornadoes.”
“As an on-air reporter, I saw first-hand how important timely alerts are during severe weather – every second counts for saving lives. After the National Weather Service communications breakdown during last month’s storms, I’m proud to work across the aisle to help modernize the NWS chat system to ensure Iowans have the information they need to stay safe when severe weather strikes,” Hinson said.