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NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards
Console Replacement System

Frequently Asked Questions & Answers

Q1. What is NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards?

NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards is a nationwide network of radio stations broadcasting continuous weather information directly from a nearby National Weather Service forecast office.   NWR broadcasts National Weather Service watches, warnings, forecasts and other hazard information 24 hours a day.  

Known as the "Voice of the National Weather Service," NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards is provided as a public service by the Department of Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,and covers the 50 states, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and U.S. Pacific Territories.

NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards broadcasts emergency and post-event information for all types of hazards -- both natural (such as severe weather, flooding, earthquakes and volcanic activity) and man-made (such as chemical releases or oil spills).  Working with other Federal agencies and compatible with the Federal Communication Commission s new Emergency Alert System (EAS), NOAA Weather Radio is an  all hazards  radio network, making it the single source for the most comprehensive weather and emergency information available to the public.

Q2. What is the NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards Console Replacement System?

The Console Replacement System (CRS) is a new, personal computer-based broadcasting console, installed at each NWS office, that automatically translates and schedules written National Weather Service forecasts and warnings into synthesized-voice broadcasts over NOAA Weather Radio.

The automated broadcast programs for NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards will free NWS staff to spend more time on critical warning and forecasting duties.  In addition, the automatic weather broadcast consoles will provide a more efficient means of disseminating severe weather watches, warnings and emergency information over NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards.

The system is part of a multi-year improvement of the National Weather Service s NOAA Weather Radio network.  NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards and the CRS are critical to the NWS mission of disseminating watches and warnings of hazardous weather for the protection of life and property.

Q3. What are the benefits of automated broadcasts?

This new automated system provides faster broadcasts of severe weather watches, warnings and emergency information over NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards because multiple warnings can be both recorded and transmitted at once.  This capability dramatically speeds up the broadcast of warnings during multiple severe weather events.

The automated technology will also significantly reduce the time it takes National Weather Service staff to record NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards broadcasts allowing them to devote more time to critical warning services and forecast duties.

Automating the process will make it easier for listeners to tune to NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards at particular times for the information they need.  Forecast offices will be able to broadcast particular forecasts and information such as marine and river forecasts or climate summaries in time slots on a more regular schedule (for example, at :06, :16, :26, :36, :46, and :56 after each hour).

Q4. Will all the information I currently hear on NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards be broadcast in a synthesized voice?

The synthesized voice will be phased in over time. Eventually, all forecasts, warnings and weather information will be broadcast with the synthesized voice.  An NWR program can be interrupted with live broadcasts as needed.

Q5. What can you tell me about the synthesized voices used for the broadcasts?

The Console Replacement System uses text-to-speech voice synthesis provided by the contractor DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) through what is known as DECtalk voice boards and software.  The NWS is committed to making improvements to the system s voice quality as improvements become available.

Q6. When will the Console Replacement System by installed?

The National Weather Service began a one-year process of installing CRS at offices across the country in January 1998.

Q7. How were broadcasts recorded prior to the automated system?

Since each transmitter operated by the NWS office also has a unique geographical coverage area, in the past, NWS staff members manually recorded the forecasts and current weather information for each listening area.  This was done using technology that limited programming variability and locked the messages into a repetitive sequential order.  Producing and updating information in this manner was time consuming since many Weather Service forecast offices operate up to 13 different NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards transmitters.

Q8. Do I need to purchase a new receiver to receive the new automated broadcasts?

No, you will not need to make any changes to the receiver you have in your home or business to receive the automated broadcasts.

Q9. How does the Console Replacement System work with the new Specific Area Message Encoding service?

CRS and the Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME) are two separate NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards technological advances as part of the National Weather Service modernization effort. Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME) is a feature on the newest generation of NOAA Weather Radio All Hazardss which lets listeners pre-select the National Weather Service alerts they want to receive based on the county where they live.  CRS automates the process of assigning SAME codes to watches and warnings.

Q10. Why won't the NWS continue to use real human voices for NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards broadcasts?

Automation dramatically speeds up the broadcast of warnings during multiple severe weather events -- and faster communication can potentially save lives.

Modern Weather Service forecast offices operate up to 13 NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards transmitters to cover segments of a large geographic area, and the NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards system continues to grow while staffing levels stay the same.  Each forecast, warning and information product must be written, printed, re-worded, then taped for broadcast.  Providing the programming for multiple transmitters is a significant workload during relatively calm weather, and can become overwhelming during rapidly changing or threatening weather conditions.  The Console Replacement System automates the function of getting severe weather watches, warnings and emergency information from our computers onto the air -- multiple warnings can be both recorded and transmitted at once.  (Experiences at some prototype sites has shown an 8 to 1 time savings, with production time cut from 15 minutes per hour to 15 minutes per 8-hour shift).     

Q11. Can't you use other technology that would use pre-recorded human voices, like the telephone companies use?

The process of recording common words (known as  concatenation) was not chosen for use with NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards programming, because each forecast, watch and warning requires unique wording to relay the most accurate and relevant information.  Concatenation is sometimes used by telephone companies, banks and other service businesses.  In most cases, this form of automation is used with a limited vocabulary of recorded words and takes the place of limited, repetitive phrases and sentences.

Concatenation was weighed as an option at one time, but  NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards broadcasts contain a wide variety of information which changes with the weather.  Forecasters need to have many words to choose from when writing their forecasts and warnings for the public.  Using a pre-recorded human voice requires taping thousands of words with different inflections and pronunciations to cover all of the possible forecast and warning situations, not to mention all forecast areas for the nation (county names, city and town names with correct local pronunciations).  More than one person would have to record the same items in order to offer more variety on broadcasts and problem arise when a specific geographic name has not been recorded, like the name of a school, business or small stream which might add significant information to a warning.

Q12. Is this the very best quality of automated voicing that's available?

This is the best quality of synthesized voice available. The automated voicing technology used is DECtalk, which is a product of the Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC).  DECtalk text-to-speech synthesis technology provides an unlimited vocabulary and the highest speech quality and accuracy available in the industry.  It is the acknowledged leader in the   assistive market , that is, it is widely used the the physically challanged to aid communication with people and machines. 

Stephen Hawking, the acclaimed British physicist and cosmologist uses DECtalk in daily life, and chose it (in an earlier version) for use as his own speaking voice when he hosted a recent nationally telecast science program.


Feb. 3, 1999



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