Thank you Chairwoman Johnson, and thank you to my colleague on the Environment Subcommittee, Chairwoman Sherrill, for cosponsoring this bill with me.
The NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards, known as NWR, is a highly successful, nationwide network of stations that broadcasts natural, environmental, and public safety alerts. Simply put: NWR is the single source for comprehensive weather and emergency information. That’s because it consists of more than one thousand stations broadcasting 24/7 to 95 percent of the population. Like many of my constituents in Oklahoma, I have a receiver in my home, and I can tell you it’s nearly impossible to sleep through or ignore its loud alerts.
The devices themselves are inexpensive – around $20 in the most basic form – and can operate where cell coverage is limited or completely lost, which is likely in the midst of any major disaster. But they have their limitations. Receivers must be within 40 miles of a transmitter, and terrain or building interference can reduce that radius.
Additionally, the NWR network last received upgrades to its capabilities in the late 1990s. Since that time, operations and maintenance costs have increased and technology has greatly advanced. As the world becomes more digitalized, we must ensure that the protection of life and property doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.
That is why I introduced this legislation. The NWR is consistent and trusted as a result of saving numerous lives. But it needs to be upgraded and modernized to remain effective in the future. My bill, H.R. 5324, authorizes upgrades to the existing system through timely repairs to broadcast transmitter sites and antennas. This will ensure that reliable systems in place are not abandoned and outages become less common. This legislation also establishes a modernization initiative for broadcasts to transition to IP-based communications and develop options for backup capabilities and enhanced signal transmission. This paves the way for the future and provides failsafe options so NWR is never down for an extended period of time. Last but not least, my bill requires NOAA to assess NWR access. This will ensure that these modernization efforts are successful and people across the country have easy, reliable access in a manner that is in line with modern technology.
While covering 95 percent of the population is great, we should always strive for 100 percent equal access. The three main tenets of my bill put us on a path to achieve that goal.
The benefits of NWR are numerous. The signal can easily reach and educate vulnerable communities. It can cover both land and marine warnings. And when a disaster is over, NWR can issue an all-clear for a community that might be battered, but whose people are safe. I want to again thank Chairwoman Sherrill for cosponsoring the bill, working in a bipartisan manner to perfect it, and helping bring this valuable service into the 21st century.
I urge all of my colleagues to support this legislation and reserve the balance of my time.