National Hydrologic Warning Council (NHWC)

ALERT Flood Warning System Data Communications Gets First Upgrade in 30 Years by the National Hydrologic Warning Council


SAN DIEGO - The National Hydrologic Warning Council (NHWC) has released ALERT2™, a new standard for transmitting data designed to significantly improve accuracy and performance in systems and software used for early detection of floods and other water hazards around the world.

ALERT, which stands for Automated Local Evaluation in Real Time, uses remote sensors to transmit environmental data via radio to receiving base station computers. The National Weather Service developed this standard in California in the 1970s. Communities now rely upon ALERT systems extensively across the U.S. and around the world as an affordable way to enhance local flood warnings. The United Nations-recognized ALERT standard is also used in automated systems for stormwater quality monitoring, energy production, reservoir operations and dam safety.

ALERT systems are popular for real-time environmental data collection because of their mission-critical reliability and low cost. The original protocol had no error detection. “ALERT message handling can overload during high intensity events, such as extremely heavy rainfall associated with hurricanes and flash floods, when you need the information most,” said NHWC President Kevin Stewart. ALERT2™ retains the cost and reliability benefits of legacy ALERT systems, while providing data 10 times faster with higher accuracy and precision.

The open standard protocol has been deployed in Denver, CO, as well as in Overland Park, KS, and Kansas City, MO. “Our performance assessments have shown significant improvement in the quality of the data, including less data loss,” said Ilse Gayl, chair of the ALERT2™ Technical Work Group of the NHWC Standards and Guidance Committee. The recommended upgrade path is to make initial changes to repeater sites and then replace individual gauge sites over time; the first two systems have taken this path.

“This approach will quickly address sources of data errors and contention while providing a controlled capital outlay to achieve further improvements,” Gayl added. “The significant improvements to data quality will likely mean more agencies will use ALERT2™ than elect to use the original ALERT standard, as the new protocol is a better means of collecting high-quality data.”

The ALERT2™ Final Draft Version 1.0 standard documentation is available for public comment on the NHWC website at Feedback is requested and needed. The comment period will remain open until Feb. 28, 2011.


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