SR/SSD 95-45

Technical Attachment


Timothy Troutman
NWSO Nashville, TN

I. Introduction

NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) is an important means by which the National Weather Service provides severe weather warnings to the public. To maximize the immediacy of warnings via NWR, some NWS offices have developed "Quick Warn" procedures. This simply involves using preformatted templates to facilitate getting critical information onto the NWR as soon as possible after a warning decision is made. This note describes how that approach may be used to good advantage.

2. How Quick-Warn Works

An example of the Quick Warn NWR severe weather warning technique was provided by Pytlak (1992). He noted the format was first used by WSO Cincinnati office during the June 18, 1992, severe weather outbreak in their area. All seven tornado warnings issued during the event involved the "quick-warn" procedure. In one instance, a tornado touched down near Aurora, Indiana, about five miles west of the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, and moved toward Boone County, Kentucky. While the text for a new warning was being prepared, the Quick-Warn format was activated; and NWR listeners received critical details of the warning message four minutes prior to issuance of the more detailed warning (TOR) itself.

The media, monitoring the NWR, were able to transmit the information to the public before they received the hard-copy warning on the weather wire. This is just one example of how the use of a Quick-Warn procedure on NWR can enhance warning effectiveness. [Ed. note: Some TV stations now have 1st Alert, an all-electronic system which immediately links NOAA Weather Wire to the viewer's TV screen.]

NWSO Nashville uses the following procedure. Once the decision is made to issue a warning, the HMT or intern who is responsible for NWR programming fills in the blanks on a pre-developed Quick-Warn template (see attached examples). Information on the template is read onto a tape, and the radio console is alarmed. The taped message includes only a brief statement mentioning the type of warning, counties affected, the expiration time of the warning, storm location and speed of movement, and an appropriate call-to-action. Recording the message before tone-alerting reduces the chance for error by the broadcaster. After the initial tape has been made and alarmed on NWR, the tape will be placed in the severe weather cycle until the actual warning message has been prepared and can be read for broadcast on NWR.

3. The Topeka Quick-Warn Style

The Quick-Warn technique can also involve live broadcasts, following guidelines contained in WSOM Chapter C-64 (page 17). This procedure is frequently used at NWSFO Topeka (Akulow 1992). Once a decision is made to issue a warning for severe weather, the individual responsible for the NWR programming will broadcast live a brief but detailed account of the warning that is being issued. Before doing so, a 30- to 40-second countdown is broadcast to give local television and radio stations the opportunity to tape or broadcast live the contents of the subsequent message. After the countdown is completed, the broadcaster then states what kind of warning is being issued, the expiration time of the warning, location and speed of movement of the severe weather, and a short and personalized call-to-action. A tape is then made of the actual warning message which is sent via weather wire, and that message is broadcast on NWR until the warning is either cancelled or expires.

Another Quick-Warn option is to pre-record a tape that is to be initially alarmed on NWR when a decision is made to issue a warning. The tape simply states that severe weather is imminent or is occurring over portions of the county warning area and that more detailed information will follow regarding this dangerous weather situation. This NWR Quick-Warn style is not as informative as the other techniques described, and it tends to leave NWR listeners wondering which specific parts of the county warning area are threatened; but it does provide a valuable "heads-up" message that may be critical.

4. Quick-Warn Survey Results in the Southern Region

An informal survey of offices in the Southern Region, completed by the author in June 1995, indicates that of the 39 offices which issue warnings via NWR, only nine (23 percent) consistently have a policy of using a Quick-Warn technique. Five of the nine offices that use a Quick-Warn technique (13 percent of offices, overall) issue warnings live over NWR. The other four offices use the taped Quick-Warn format. Three-fourths of all the offices broadcast first the complete warning message.

5. Conclusion

The SRWARN program greatly facilitates the process of composing and transmitting severe weather warnings. The WSR-88D provides a major enhancement in severe weather detection. Both allow more timely and accurate warning decisions by NWS forecasters. Use of a Quick-Warn technique on NWR may in some instances provide a few more valuable minutes of lead-time in critical situations. It makes maximum use of NWR capabilities and is an option that all offices may wish to consider as a means for maximizing their warning capability. After all, minutes count in a warning situation.


Akulow, Mike Jr., 1992: The Topeka "Quick Warn" NOAA Weather Radio Method. Central Region Technical Attachment 92-01, NWS Central Region Headquarters, Kansas City, MO, 7 pp.

Pytlak, Erik S., 1992: Report on Recent NOAA Weather Radio Surveys and Program Modifications at WSO Cincinnati. Eastern Region General Interest Paper, NWS Eastern Region Headquarters, Bohemia, NY, 1 p. is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.