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What On Earth Is “Haz Simp?”

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There is a shorthand of sorts that is used by various groups. You are probably familiar with at least some of them. A good example is “Sit Rep” which has been used by the military and shown in many movies. It means a Situation Report to give an assessment of the current situation. Sticking with military terminology is the frequently used “I’ve got your 6” which comes from the dial of a clock face and means I have your back covered.

"Haz Simp" Project
NWS Hazard Simplification Project | Image by NWS through

Now we get to “Haz Simp.” Who uses it and what does it mean? The National Weather Service (NWS) uses it and it stands for their Hazards Simplification Project. The concept is pretty simple. The National Weather Service is in the process of determining what can be done to make their weather and water based hazard warnings and watches more understandable by the public. It is difficult, if not impossible, for someone to know what to do in an emergency situation if the bulletin isn’t presented in such a way that it can be quickly and easily understood. If the statement is confusing most people will wait for more information before acting upon it. That delay could cause people to become injured of even possibly killed just because they were not sure what the message meant.

Here is a direct quote from the National Weather Service Hazards Simplification Project website. “The NWS is striving to support a “Weather-Ready Nation” by ensuring you are aware of and prepared for the variety of weather-and-water related hazards we experience across the country every day. One factor in supporting this awareness and preparedness is to make sure our messaging is as clear and focused as possible.”

"Cold Core" tornado Smaller and weaker Photo near Fisher, MN
“Cold Core” tornado
Smaller and weaker
Photo near Fisher, MN

In my 37 years of Television weather forecasting experience and my continued radio and website forecasting I have explained the difference between a Warning, a Watch, and an Advisory over and over again. When I worked in the tornado belt, more commonly known as
“Tornado Alley,” I would air a half hour severe weather awareness special as a prelude to the thunderstorm and tornado season. I even  aired a segment every day for 7 days on the newscasts explaining the various kinds of severe weather and the types of watches and warnings that would arise when the situation necessitated them. No matter how many times I explained it there were aways some people who would not remember what the terminology meant. That lack of understanding can be dangerous and even deadly when severe weather events occur.

NWS Watch vs Warning | Image by NWS Des Moines, IA

Back to this new project. The current Watch, Warning and Advisory (WWA) System has been used for decades and the Weather Service has determined that it has been highly effective  in protecting life and property, but they also have found that some people get confused with the terminology. Do you know the difference between a Tornado Watch and a Tornado Warning? The watch means that the conditions are right for the formation of thunderstorms and possible tornadoes over a broad area while the warning means that a tornado has formed and is headed toward a specific narrower area. The problem is remembering that distinction when storms are all around you.

To mitigate the confusion the National Weather Service has devised an online survey to get your input and possibly make some changes. There are three basic options they have outlined. 1) Keep the current WWA system as is; 2) Make small to moderate changes; or 3) Make a transformational change to the WWA system.

Here is an elaboration on options 2 and 3. Quoting again “What is a “Repair”? We are defining a WWA “Repair” as a relatively small change that could be implemented by altering our policy and/or making minor adjustments to our current weather and water hazard messaging system.” “What is a “Revamp”? We are defining a WWA “Revamp” as a larger change that would require significant policy revision, could result in an overhaul and/or revisualization of the current hazard paradigm and could require major software adjustments. A revamp would have to be widely advertised in advance, and would also require extensive education and outreach to facilitate any transition.”

NWS Survey
National Weather Service Survey | Image

If you would like to take this survey just go to the Hazard Simplification Survey link by clicking where it says “Click here for 2016 Surveys.” You may want to watch the video to the left of the survey to see a National Weather Service representative present a short explanation of the project. It will be very interesting to see the results of the survey and what changes the National Weather Service deems necessary to make sure the public-at-large can better understand the weather bulletins that are issued.

Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at:


Tim Chuey is a Member of the American Meteorological Society and the National Weather Association and has been Awarded Seals of Approval for television weathercasting from both organizations.

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