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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Resident commissioner cosponsors bill to modernize NWS communications system

By The Star Staff

Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón has joined Rep. Randy Feenstra (R-Iowa) in introducing bipartisan legislation that modernizes the outdated National Weather Service (NWS) communications system that disseminates critical and sensitive information to broadcasters, emergency managers and the general public during severe weather events.

As part of the modernization of the Integrated Outreach Program, the NWS has identified several critical systematic upgrades to its emergency communications operation, including the need to replace the NWSChat instant messaging program.

“In Iowa, we know that severe weather can happen at any time,” Feenstra. “From straights (long-lasting windstorms) and tornadoes to blizzards and flooding, it is vital that the National Weather Service has a functional and reliable emergency communications system that keeps people informed and out of harm’s way during severe storms.”

“For decades, the highly outdated NWSChat has failed our stations, emergency responders and the general public,” the lawmaker added. “This must change.”

González Colón added that “having accurate weather information is vital for residents and first responders to prepare for an upcoming weather disturbance and react immediately to conditions that can change rapidly during the event.”

“The National Weather Service must communicate through a proven, well-supported platform that can be trusted at critical times,” she said.

Specifically, the National Weather Service’s Communications Improvement Act would direct the NWS director to review and select a business alternative to NWSChat that prioritizes reliability and safety.

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