Weather Radio – How Can You Use It To Protect Yourself and Your Family?
North American weather is arguably the most spectacular and destructive in the world. And the USA is right in the middle of it, exposed to Arctic breakouts, Atlantic storms, hurricanes, storm cells with their accompanying tornadoes and hail in the center, and severe storms and occasional hurricanes moving east from the Pacific Ocean.
Some of these weather events are not only destructive – they can also be deadly, building up and moving in very quickly.
But if you know what’s coming at you, and when, you can take steps to protect yourself, your loved ones and your property.
And fortunately the USA has a very sophisticated weather warning system based on the concept of Weather Radio.
Weather Radio is actually two different things – the service that provides the warnings about severe weather events together with a number of other hazards such as fires, earthquakes and other emergencies, and the radios themselves which broadcast these warnings on a restricted group of frequencies to prevent interference from commercial programs.
Weather Radio Coverage
NOAA Weather Radio is a nationwide radio network covering all 50 states plus Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands and U.S. Pacific Territories. It is a 24 hour service with broadcasts originating from a nearby National Weather Service Office, which provides weather watches, warnings and post event reports nd summaries.
Advice and warnings from the Emergency Alert Service (EAS) are also included, providing a single source for information on all emergency situations, including child abductions.
The warnings are broadcast from over 900 transmitters with ranges of 40 – 50 miles unless affected by local hills and mountains. Seven radio frequencies are used, which are separated from normal AM/FM commercial frequencies. They are 162.40, 162.425, 162.450, 162.475, 162.50, 162.525, and 162.550 MHz.
Coverage is greatest in areas at greatest risk, such as the Hurricane Coasts, Tornado Alley, and areas prone to floods and blizzards.
Receiving The Warnings.
Although you may be able to pick up warnings on your ordinary radio, there is a better way. And that is to use a special purpose Weather Radio, designed to pick up and clearly broadcast messages on the Weather Radio Service frequencies.
These radios come in three main forms – portable, desktop and hand cranked. Some two way radios also act as weather radios.
Portable and desktop versions look pretty much like normal radios in their basic form, and many of them can pick up normal AM/FM broadcasts. They can use AC power but also have battery back up, either conventional or rechargeable. While they carry normal weather information in normal times, they will spring to life or interrupt normal programs in the event of an emergency.
Hand cranked weather radios are ideal for periods when household power may not be available, or for campers or remote workers. Around two minute’s cranking will give about an hour’s reception.
All weather radios activate a loud alarm when a warning is about to be given, but you won’t want to be woken up to hear about weather 50 miles or more away, and moving even further from you.
And you don’t have to, because all good weather radios have access to SAME, or Specific Area Message Encoding, which lets you program your radio so that only alerts from counties or parts of counties in your local area will be broadcast.
Weather radios do not just broadcast sound – the warning is also shown on a small screen. For those who need extra help, accessories include flashing lights and vibrators.
Weather radio alerts can aslo be picke up on many two way radios, providing crucial information for those in remote areas or work sites.
This blog is focused on weather radios, particularly reviews of the best of currently available models. But as the blog develops you can also expect to see posts and articles on the Weather Radio network, accessories and new models.
Expanded articles on the Weather Radio Service and the types and brands of reliable weather radios can be found at Home Weather Stations Guide, together with lots of stuff on weather and weather stations.