NWS Wants Your Comments on a Proposed Alternative to Simplify Winter Hazard Headlines

Here is an opportunity for technical communicators and usability experts to help improve weather-related public service announcements by the National Weather Service (NWS): "NWS Wants Your Comments on a Proposed Alternative to Simplify Winter Hazard Headlines" with a PowerPoint audiocast demonstration.  Updated

The National Weather Service (NWS) uses the terms Watch, Warning and Advisory (WWA) to describe how likely we believe a weather or flooding event is, how bad we think the associated impacts will be, and when the impacts will occur. Results from surveys, service assessments and feedback from some of our partners indicate many people may not fully understand what these terms mean or how to properly respond to stay safe and protect property. The public may also be confused on the distinction between WWA headlines for specific hazards, called hazard products. Examples of similar sounding hazard products include Winter Storm Warning, Winter Storm Watch, and Winter Weather Advisory.

In support of our Weather-Ready Nation initiative, NWS wants to start a conversation on how we might simplify and clarify our products. For this demonstration, we are proposing an alternative way to express headlines within our hazard messages, with winter hazard messages as a focus. If you have other ideas for simplifying and clarifying these messages, we want to hear them.

This demonstration, which will run through March 31, 2013, will provide you with the opportunity to compare headline text from a shortened version of our official WWA messages for winter weather hazards with a proposed alternative. These alternative messages are being created at selected locations (see map below) for demonstration purposes only. Also, the alternative messages will only be accessible via this Web page and via special links from the NWS Home Page and the Home Pages of participating NWS Weather Forecast Offices (WFOs). These messages are not being disseminated. All official NWS winter weather hazard messages will be disseminated as usual, including all computer-readable header information, e.g., Valid Time Event Code (VTEC). For more information, see the official Product Description Document (.pdf).

NWS is demonstrating this proposed alternative approach to hazard message simplification at 26 NWS WFOs this winter. For these sites, we are creating a side-by-side display to allow you to compare our current official headline text with proposed alternative text. These displays will be created continuously in real time based on our official products; however, these displays are being created for demonstration purposes only. We will continue to produce and disseminate all our official WWA products per current policy.

Our team has worked to translate every combination of winter WWA products that we could identify from our records. You can access the Translation Guide here for reference. We will continually monitor and, if necessary, add to the guide during the demonstration.

Based on an analysis of your comments, we will work with our partners and social scientists to determine next steps. If there is support for a simplified approach to winter hazards messaging, NWS will refine the concept based on the comments we receive. We also will work with our partners to determine the best way for their systems to ingest and process information contained in the new message formats.

Comment Now!

Please share your opinions on the overall hazard simplification concept via our standard survey form, used by NWS for all experimental products. For this demonstration, please focus on the following questions:

Question 3: Let us know what you like about the proposed alternative

Question 4: Let us know what you do not like about the proposed alternative

Question 9: Comment on the current WWA system and suggest alternatives to this proposal

Thanks for completing this short survey.

To ask general questions about this demonstration, or share comments about a specific dated WFO message, please email the team at email hidden; JavaScript is required. We will answer as many questions as possible, depending on volume, and will add responses to frequently asked questions to the FAQ section.

Feel free to reply more than once as you review multiple products during the demonstration.

STC WDC Wins Community of Distinction Award

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Congratulations to our entire chapter for being such a vibrant community of professionals! For the first time ever, the STC Washington, DC chapter has won a Community of Distinction award, the most prestigious level in STC’s Community Achievement Award program!

Below is an excerpt from the notice we received from Rachel Houghton, Member STC Community Achievement Award Evaluation Committee (CAAEC).

.. the STC Washington, D.C. chapter has earned the Community of Distinction award for 2008-2009. The citation on your certificate will read:

For your collaboration with related organizations, your unique membership promotion, your use of social networking to increase community visibility, and your extremely accessible website transformation.STC Community Achievement Award Evaluation Committee

Your community will be recognized during the Leadership Day event on Sunday, May 3, at the Tech Comm Summit in Atlanta…

In addition, the STC Washington, DC community will be recognized at the Honors Banquet on Tuesday, May 5. At that event, all STC Washington, DC members will be welcomed on stage to receive congratulations from the STC president, Cindy Currie, and Immediate Past President, Mark Clifford.

The judges praised the high caliber of our volunteers, the way we used Cvent for a unique membership promotion this past January, our new accessible website design and the valuable resources on that website, the many ways we communicate with our members, the way we use LinkedIn to increase our visibility, and Cynthia Lockley’s redesign of several STC logos. Cynthia is also our webmaster and we have her to thank for our excellent website.

Though the judges didn’t specifically mention it, we all also know that our annual Technical Communication Competitions are consistently well run and result in internationally-recognized professional work. Thanks for taking the helm for the past two years, Lina Scorza!