National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

A Haz Simp Revamp decision has been made!

The NWS will remove the “Advisory” headline from its “Watch, Warning, and Advisory” (WWA) system in favor of plain language headlines. Additionally, the “Special Weather Statement” headline will also be removed and transitioned to plain language. Exceptions to this will include Center Weather Advisory and space weather and tropical cyclone advisories which are used to contain descriptive information only. Also, Small Craft Advisory will transition to Warning rather than plain language and options for Tsunami Advisory are still being considered. The current “Watch” and “Warning” headlines, as well as our criteria for issuing them, will remain unchanged. To provide time for public outreach, partner adjustments, and NWS policy and software development, this change will not occur before 2024.  

Social science research (see Social Science website tab) confirmed widespread misunderstanding around the “Advisory” term, including its confusion with “Watch.” In response, the move to plain language headlines is intended to more clearly describe the hazard without losing emphasis. NWS accepted feedback on a set of options to help us refine the exact wording of these headlines via a survey that was available thoroughly July 31, 2021.

For more information on this change, please review the following resources:

Public Information Statement

Descriptive slide deck

FAQ Sheet


What Will Change?

Current System

NWS currently uses three primary headline terms - "Watch", "Warning" and "Advisory" - to alert the public and partners of hazardous events.

"Watch" means a life- and/or property-threatening event is possible - but not yet certain

"Warning" means a life- and/or property-threatening event is happening or about to happen

"Advisory" means an event less serious that a Warning  is happening or about to happen 

In addition to "Watch", "Warning" and "Advisory", NWS also uses "Special Weather Statement (SPS)" to provide information on events that are less serious (or of shorter duration) than an Advisory.

                                                                                                                        Future Changes

The following graphic describes the future changes. Watch and Warning will remain as they currently are. A Watch means you should  prepare for a dangerous weather or water event (e.g. grocery shopping, emergency supply kit) and a Warning means you should take action to prevent or avoid a dangerous event (e.g. take shelter, don’t drive). 

The current “Advisories” and “Special Weather Statements” will be removed and transitioned to plain language headlines for weather or water events that do not rise to the level of a Warning. In this type of situation you should exercise caution and take some protective measure (e.g. drive slowly, dress warmly, drink extra water).

 

 

What is a plain language headline?

You may be wondering what the plain language headlines will look like.  NWS is continuing to work with public and partners to refine exact wording but some potential examples are shown below. As you’ll see, these headlines will be short messages that clearly and simply describe the hazard, but still signal the audience to take note.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Path Toward Simplification: