Two friends stand in the rain using the weather app

To protect American lives, the National Weather Service stays nimble with a Slack-powered communication system

“The demo of NWSChat 2.0 powered by Slack was used extensively during a flash-flood event in our area, and being able to share pictures added credibility and confidence not only to the reports we received, but to the impact on the affected areas. The stability of the platform was a key factor to our ongoing forecast and Impact-Based Decision Support Services efforts in support of our partners.”

John DeBlockWarning Coordination Meteorologist, Birmingham, Alabama, National Weather Service

With a mission to protect American lives and properties across the country from weather, water and climate hazards, the National Weather Service (NWS) is receiving the Slack for Good Award for pivoting its crucial messaging service to the Slack platform to deliver the most relevant information, reports and data in real time.

No matter the season, teams at NWS work around the clock to keep Americans informed and prepared for nature’s most furious storms. Since 2008, the government agency’s in-house chat system, NWSChat, has served as a critical tool to connect NWS and its partners during extreme weather.

Originally demonstrated by now-NWS director Ken Graham as a way to link NWS forecasters with broadcast meteorologists in real time, NWSChat links about 2,300 NWS operational staff members with over 10,000 partners from Puerto Rico to Guam, including emergency managers, law enforcement, first responders, and TV and radio stations.

As the original homegrown chat system grew from dozens to thousands of users nationwide, the legacy technology wasn’t versatile or robust enough for forecasters and their partners to rely on in emergency situations—when every second counts. In search of a modern and reliable replacement, NWS performed a test demonstration using Slack in fall 2021.

Beyond a demonstration, Slack was used operationally during a number of high-impact weather events, including tornadoes. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive: 95% of users felt Slack could replace NWSChat, and 96% said it was equal to or better than the current system.

“After using NWSChat 2.0 powered by Slack during our flash-flood emergency event, I never want to go back to the legacy NWS Chat platform. Slack is super intuitive and allows for a multitude of information sharing.”

Melissa SizemoreEmergency Management Officer, Jefferson County, Alabama

NWSChat 2.0 powered by Slack is a strategic choice aligned around NWS’s mission, and will advance the agency’s ability to connect operational staff with key partners at all levels. The new, scalable platform can handle increased user demand as well as the integration of NWS’s social media accounts, in-channel product collaboration, video calls and instant messaging.

Crucially, NWSChat 2.0 will provide robust support across multiple platforms hosted in the public cloud: It can be used on desktop or via mobile device, including phones and tablets, and allows users to share photos and videos from anywhere. This gives NWS the flexibility to stay agile, empowering partners to make the most informed decisions on the ground and facilitate the dissemination of emergency information as fast as possible. Currently deployed in the Pacific region of the National Weather Service, NWSChat 2.0 will roll out to the rest of the country and more than 150 offices in time for peak hurricane season this summer.

For over a century, NWS has played a key role in protecting American lives across the nation—and its staff know that every second counts when weather’s coming your way. Now, even when an NWS network goes down, NWS Chat 2.0 will stay up, allowing NWS staff and its partners to keep communities and citizens up to date on life-saving information.