Category Archives: Weather Radio

SAME County Codes

How to find NOAA SAME County Codes

Midland WR-300 Weather Radio

If you have the right kind of Weather Alert Radio, you will be able to set it up so that you only receive alerts that are likely to directly affect you. This will eliminate a lot of alerts that won’t concern you directly, so you’ll know that if an alarm does go off the alert will probably be about something that’s important.

To do this, you will need to know the SAME Codes for your county and those close to it. SAME stands for Specific Area Message Encoding  

These codes are also sometimes called NOAA County codes, SAME weather codes and weather radio codes. The important thing to keep in mind is that they are administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – NOAA – and are part of its National Weather Radio (NWR) service.

To program your radio, you will need the manual which came with the radio, and you will need to know the 6 digit SAME Code for the county or city you live in. You should add a few others, particularly those in the direction from which dangerous weather usually comes from.

So where do you find the correct codes?

Start off by going here – http://www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/indexnw.htm   You’ll find a table of US States. Click on your state and you will see a list of all the counties, and next to them you will see the SAME code. Make a note of this, and then program your radio.

Some counties are listed more than once. This means that some parts of the county will receive a better signal from a different transmitter than other parts. Pick the best SAME code to suit where you live, or as a backup, use both. You can also find the SAME code for neighboring counties and you can program these into your radio as well – most radios with SAME will let you add quite a few counties to the program

This list assumes that a clear signal will be received within 40 miles of the transmitter over level ground.

In some areas, rugged landscapes may limit reception of a clear signal from any transmitter – if this applies to your county there will be a mention of this in another column in the table, but if you live in a valley behind a high range of hills between you and the transmitter, you may not be able to receive a signal at all.

Once everything is set up, you can be confident that you’ll receive plenty of notice of any developing weather emergency. You can check that everything is working by listening for the regular test transmissions between 10am and noon each Wednesday. Tests may also be run if there is a threat building for severe weather in the listening area, such as developing storms or an approaching hurricane that might require an alert to be broadcast later in the day.

NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) Frequencies.

When you look up the tables to find the SAME codes for your area, you may notice that the radio frequencies will be different for different codes. NOAA Weather Radio uses 7 frequencies in what is often called the Weather Band. If you have a weather radio, you can find these frequencies using the tuning dial or search function. Radios programmed with the SAME code are automatically linked to transmitters using these frequencies.

These seven frequencies are used by NWR to broadcast official severe weather warnings and watches together with normal weather forecasts. Other hazard warnings and information are also broadcast on this VHF (very high frequency) public service band, sometimes called the Weather Band.

Weather Alert Radios will receive all these frequencies, which are located at

  • 162.400
  • 162.425
  • 162.450
  • 162.475
  • 162.500
  • 162.525 and
  • 162.550 MHz.

As you can see, they are separated by 0.025 MHz intervals.

If you have a Weather Alert Radio that works with SAME Codes, you will know the best frequency to use in your area. If you have push button program on your radio you can set one of the buttons to the frequency.

If your radio doesn’t accept the SAME system, use the tuning dial or search on your Weather Alert Radio to find the clearest signal from the frequencies in this band, and use a button to program that one.

What sort of warnings will you receive?

Most warnings will be about developing severe weather, but any emergency may be covered, including wildfires, volcanic activity, earthquakes and tsunamis, as well as man made hazards such as chemical and oil spills. The Weather Radio Service is also integrated with the Emergency Alert System as well as Amber alerts concerning things such as child abduction.

The Weather radio transmits 24 hours a day, and provides up to date forecasts unless an alert is being transmitted. Alerts take two forms – watch and warning.

The system works by an alert interrupting a radio program, or activating your radio if it is in standby mode. A siren will sound and a voice message will be transmitted. Depending on which Weather Alert Radio you have, the warning may be reinforced by flashing lights, and color coded lights may show what kind of alert is being broadcast.

A Watch alert lets you know if forecasters believe that some form of severe weather is possible in your area. The severe weather may be hours away, maybe a day or days in the case of floods, hurricanes or winter storms, and you will have time to prepare.

A Warning tells you that severe weather is imminent, and in the case of tornados and severe storms, may have been observed in your area. You should take immediate protective action.

Weather radio will also tell you when the risk has decreased to the point where it is no longer a danger, but the siren will not sound in this case

Click here for an easy to read downloadable summary .

Weather radios which use the SAME system are reviewed here. They are the  Oregon WR602,  Midland HH54VP2Midland WR300,  Sangean CL-100 and the Reecom R-1650.

Ambient WR-335 Weather Radio

 

 

 

Ambient Weather WR-335 Adventurer 2 Weather Radio

There are a lot of emergency radios around that can provide a basic charge through hand cranking or solar cells, and some of them will charge your cell phone enough to make an emergency call. Most of them are adequate for an emergency where grid power is unavailable, but they leave plenty of room for improvement.

Ambient WR-335 Hand Cranked Weather RadioThe WR-335 Adventurer 2 is Ambient Weather’s top of the range emergency radio, and it has pretty well everything that smaller portable radios lack, including access to Weather Radio Alerts.

It’s of moderate size, has a powerful rechargeable Lithium Ion battery that can be replaced off the shelf when it eventually runs out, can be charged in 6 different ways, and can provide a reasonable charge to almost all cell phones and a lot of other small devices as well.

It includes a flashlight, and can be used as a weather alert radio whenever it is plugged in to an AC source.

With a weight of about one pound (450 gm) it is light enough to go into an emergency pack, or to be included on a hiking or camping trip. In these situations, charge can be maintained from 3AAA backup batteries, a small solar cell, or hand cranking.

With good reception and sound quality, as well as the huge range of features, it is around double the price of smaller radios that will do a similar job, but not as well. The price difference is mostly related to its much more powerful battery, its ability to give a reasonable charge to cell phones and other devices, and the convenience of digital control of AM, FM, Weather Band and Short Wave Radio.

Overall, this appears to be a very good radio for both home and emergency use and the price is reasonable when you consider its capabilities. Buyer reviews at sites like Amazon support this view, with ratings in the highest bracket.

So let’s look at the Ambient WR-335 Weather Alert Radio in more detail.

Features

Size.

The WR-335 is a solid 6x2x3.25″ in size and weighs about a pound (approx 450 gms)

Radio.

The radio itself is digital, and includes AM, FM, Weather Band and Short Wave. Being digital rather than analog may not be a great difference, but you will have the convenience of search, and being able to store up to 5 stations or frequencies for each band. FM is mono rather than stereo.

The Weather Band will receive all 7 NOAA frequencies in the USA, and you can program those which have the clearest signal in your area.

Short Wave is there for major emergencies. It’s where the amateur Ham Radio people hang out, and they may be the only people on air during a catastrophe.

Short Wave is received best at night, and you can pick up a signal from almost anywhere in the world. The manual which comes with the WR-335 contains a list of the main international SW stations and their frequencies.

Weather Alert Radio

One of the best features of the Ambient WR-335 Adventurer 2 is the inclusion of the NOAA Weather Alert service. This works best when the radio is on standby and plugged into an AC source, so it is for before the emergency develops rather than during it. Once grid power disappears, the Weather Band will keep you up to date with the situation in your area.

The Weather Alert is accessed by tuning in to the station on the Weather Band with the best reception, then pressing the Mode button until the ALT symbol is displayed. This will silence the radio until there is a weather statement, watch or warning, when the alert light will flash (this is the flashlight), the siren will sound, and the radio will start broadcasting the local weather station. The siren is reasonably loud, but at night the best place for the radio in Alert Mode would be on a table beside your bed.

The alert mode can be disabled by pressing the power button.

Filters available on some desktop weather radios, which can allow selection of warnings only, are not available on the WR-335.

Battery

Another of the main distinguishing features of the Ambient WR-335 Weather Radio is the presence of a powerful 2200mAH Lithium Ion rechargeable battery. This battery is almost four times the power of the batteries in other Ambient weather radios, as well as most models of other brands, and allows longer broadcast and flashlight time, as well as providing greater charge to cell phones and other devices.

Ambient WR-335 Weather Radio Input and Output JacksThe battery is good for about 2000 recharge cycles, and when it finally expires it can be replaced off the shelf for less than $10 (2014 figures). Many alternative radios have purpose built batteries which are difficult if not impossible to replace.

The Battery can be charged by

1.  AC through a USB port on a computer or phone charger.

2. Direct AC from a wall switch through an adapter supplied with the radio. Ambient recommends that the radio normally be connected to an AC source. This will keep the battery fully charged (it can’t be overcharged) and will make it easy to enable alert mode.

3. DC or car charger – cable not included.

4. Back up batteries – 3AAA batteries can be installed in a compartment in the radio – they are not included

5. Solar through a small panel on the radio. The panel will not fully charge the radio’s battery but will slowly add charge while in sunlight and will maintain the charge at a near maximum level. A solar bag with a larger panel is available from Ambient Weather as an extra

6. Hand Crank. The best policy with radios like this is to try to maintain a reasonable charge level. The hand crank is best for adding small amounts of charge to the battery rather than trying to totally recharge it.

Normally one minute of cranking at two revolutions/sec will provide 15 – 20 minutes of radio at moderate volume, 70 minutes of flashlight, and up about 3-5 minutes of talk time on a cell phone.

Over cranking can damage the radio – crank for no more than two minutes at 2 revs/second, then stop for at least one minute before resuming.

Flashlight.

The flashlight is bright enough to find your way around and to locate items in the dark, but it would be a good idea to pack a more powerful one in your emergency kit. It uses very little power and a few cranks will give you plenty of light.

Cell Phone Charging.

Cell phones and other appliances can be charged by a dump from the battery (recommended) or by hand cranking. Because the battery is quite powerful, a reasonable charge can be given to your cell, but the idea is to give you power for emergency situations rather than talking to friends or checking the internet. Because of the focus on emergency use, but also to provide the charge more quickly, the radio will be disabled when cell phones are being charged.

The best way to charge a cell is to turn the radio off, hold down the power button for about 3 seconds until the display reads “Phone”, attach the correct plug to your cell phone, then attach the other end to the USB jack under the rubber cover on the end of the radio.

A dongle with 10 leads is included with the phone, and most devices can be connected once you identify the right cable. Some smart phones, such as the iPhone 5 will have their own USB to micro USB cable for charging and this can also be used.

When charging, a red LED light will be visible. Charging will continue until the charge in the cell battery is equal to that in the radio, so a full charge is not possible. Extra charge can be added by cranking – crank for no more than two minutes at no more than 2 revs /sec, then wait for one – two minutes before cranking again. You may get a warning message from your device but damage is most unlikely.

The crucial step in charging cells etc is to switch the radio to the phone mode. I suspect that some reviewers who have been critical of the charging capacity of the Ambient WR-335 may have missed this step.

Accessories

Ambient WR-335 With Included AccessoriesThe WR-335 comes with an octopus like attachment with 10 connections suitable for a large variety of cell phones and other devices. There is also a USB to mini USB cable for charging the radio battery from an external AC source, and an adapter for an AC wall plug. A very clear and well written manual is included (Hooray!), as are warranty details.

Warranty

A one year limited warranty is available which basically covers defects in parts and labor during the manufacture of the radio. Should you have warranty or other problems you will need to contact Ambient Weather’s help desk, which has a very good record for prompt advice and service.

Price

The Ambient WR-335 is at the top of the range sold by Ambient and is also it’s highest priced emergency weather radio. Prices can vary from day to day, but something around $70.00 seems common. Check freight costs to get a total amount.

Any Problems?

Those buyers who have reviewed the Ambient WR-335 Weather Radio have generally been pleased with it. The rare examples which have not worked have been replaced quickly, and other criticisms mostly relate to cell charging or sound quality.

I suspect that a lot of the instances of poor charging may be due to incorrect setting up of the radio  – it must be placed in “Phone” mode for cell phone charging to happen.

Reception of all bands seems to be generally good, and while sound quality is not superb it is around the level you would expect from a small battery operated radio. Reception will also vary with your location and station strength, and short wave reception is rarely good during daylight hours.

Bear in mind that plasma TVs can badly affect radio reception. If you have reception problems and your plasma TV is on, try again when it is not working.

The case is rubberized but probably would not stand up to a drop onto a concrete path, and while it has some water resistance through the rubber cover over the input and output jacks, it is by no means waterproof.

Another possible weakness is the antenna, which is quite thin and not strongly attached. Be gentle with it, and carry some copper wire as an emergency aid.

There are a few other criticisms, but keep in mind that this is a radio designed to help you out in an emergency, so if it doesn’t have stereo and doesn’t scan stations as well as a car radio, it could be forgiven if it does it’s main job of warning you and keeping you up to date in an emergency.

Most emergency weather radios sold in the USA are strong and reliable, and the Ambient WR-335 is no exception, with a case and crank that seem stronger than most. But it’s a very competitive market, with a very tight balance between quality and price.

Summing up.

The Ambient WR-335 ADVENTURER 2 Weather Alert Radio appears to be a very useful radio which provides the transition between home use as a Weather Alert Radio and a battery operated source of information in an emergency.

Its strengths are in the powerful rechargeable battery which provides much better charging of cells and other electronics than many of its competitors with a much smaller battery that is not always replaceable from off the shelf.

The backup AAA batteries are also a good idea and are not often included in radios of this type. Keep plenty on hand, and at $10-00 or less for the main battery, a spare or two would make a lot of sense.

The numerous options for charging the radio mean that it should always be functional provided it does not get wet, and the digital tuning and reasonable sound quality mean in normal times it can double as a recreational and weather alert radio around the home.

So keep it fully charged on AC power at home, and switch it over to emergency mode if you lose power or have to evacuate. It is also small enough to put in an emergency pack or bug out bag – just remember to charge the battery up every few months.

Overall, this radio is well designed, well made, with some very useful features, and manufactured and supported by a highly regarded company.

You can find out plenty more about the WR-335 here, including quite a number of good customer reviews. You should also find a competitive price, so check it out now to see if there are any discounts.

Ambient Weather is a major manufacturer and supplier of weather radios, home weather stations and related equipment, and their website is always worth a visit

Other fine weather radios are described elsewhere on this site, including the American Red Cross FRX2 Hand Turbine Weather Radio, also known as the Eton FRX2

 

FRX2 Emergency Radio

Eton or American Red Cross FRX2 Hand Turbine Weather Radio

Let’s get one thing clear right from the beginning. The American Red Cross FRX2 Hand Turbine Weather Radio is identical to the Eton FRX2 Hand Turbine AM/FM Weather Radio in all respects except the brand name (and the optional black case with the Eton model).

American Red Cross FRX2 Emergency Radio

If you check them out at, say,  Amazon, you’ll usually find they are identical in price too, coming in at about the middle of the price range for weather radios of this type. Continue reading

Epica WR-257 Emergency Radio

The Epica Emergency Solar Hand Crank AM/FM/NOAA Digital Radio, Flashlight, Cell Phone Charger

Anyone living in the USA or Canada really should have a radio with access to NOAA’s Weather Radio Service. Let’s call these Weather Alert Radios so we don’t get too confused between the warning service and the radio that receives the warnings.

At least one. But if you were only going to have one it should be a radio that will continue to work when the mains power goes off, or when you have had to leave home.

Epica WR-257 Emergency Solar Hand Crank AM/FM/NOAA Digital RadioBattery powered radios are fine, but how many batteries are you going to need to stay informed following a major event lika a tornado, hurricane or flood?

Fortunately, over the last five years or so, there have been major advances in battery design, particularly in rechargeable batteries. This means that the last resort power source, the hand crank which charges batteries from the effort you put in in turning the handle, have also improved a great deal.

Continue reading

Sangean DT-400W Weather Radio

 The Sangean DT-400W Portable Weather Radio

Sangean DT-400W Pocket Weather Alert RadioThe Sangean DT-400W Pocket Weather Radio is a popular portable AM/FM radio with an adequate weather radio function. Adequate but not great, and it is not easy to recommend if you are looking for a good portable or desktop radio whose main purpose is to give you timely warnings about impending severe weather or other emergencies.

But… if you are looking for a very good portable or pocket radio that you can take with you when walking, jogging or camping that will warn you if an emergency is developing (weather or otherwise) then this well built and compact radio could be ideal. It is not cheap, but most buyers have thought it worth the price. Continue reading

Midland HH54VP2 Portable Weather Radio

 

The Midland HH54VP2 Portable Emergency Weather Radio is a direct competitor with the Oregon Scientific WR602, and, apart from a longer history which gives a better idea about reliability, is quite similar.Midland HH54VP2 Portable Weather Radio

It actually comes in two forms – the plain HH54VP and the optioned up HH54VP2. Strangely, the HH54VP2, despite a much higher list price, can often be found at a lower price at the major retailers – Check here to see what it is today.

The difference between them is in the addition of a rechargeable battery and charge cradle in the HH54VP2, which, given a low battery life when on standby in the basic model, is a valuable addition. Continue reading

Midland HH50 Weather Radio

Midland HH50 Weather RadioThe Midland HH50 Pocket Weather Radio  doesn’t do very much, but it’s ideal if you are on the road. It  just finds the nearest weather radio station with the strongest signal and lets you know if there’s any problems on the way.

But quite often that’s all you need – no AM/FM reception, no alarm clock, and no fancy design – just a pocket sized radio that works very well. And you should be able to find one for less than $20.00. Continue reading

Oregon WR602 Weather Radio

Oregon Weather Radios are mostly pocket or portable models which fulfil most requirements of a basic weather radio, but their reputation has suffered from some problems in the recent past. The Oregon WR602 is the flagship in the pocket weather radio class.

Oregon WR602 Weather RadioOregon Scientific is an electonics specialist with a wide range of home weather stations, digital clocks and a small number of basic weather radios. A few years ago they introduced a number of new models which, although apparently reliable and effective in many parts of North America, performed poorly in others. The problem was in accessing weather radio broadcasts, particularly through the S.A.M.E. system which allows users to restrict warnings to their local area. Continue reading

Sangean CL-100 Review

Sangean CL-100 Weather Alert Radio Review

Overview

The Sangean CL-100 Weather Radio does everything that good weather alert radios do – receives all 7 NOAA frequencies, lets you restrict alerts  to those areas which directly affect you, and receives all types and categories of alerts.

Sangean CL-100 Weather Alert RadioBut there’s more – you can limit the alarms  you receive to those which are important and relevant, and you can set the volume of the alarm to a suitable level. The  display on the screen is also color coded to the urgency of the alert.

The voice part of the message will automatically shut off at the end of the message, and the radio comes with a very clear and adjustable LCD
display.
Continue reading

Reecom R-1650 Weather Radio

Overview

Reecom R-1650 Weather RadioThe Reecom R-1650 Weather Alert Radio, while not the best selling desktop weather radio,  looks to be close to the best of a pretty good bunch in providing early information about developing weather and other emergencies.

It has sufficient memory to store up to 26 counties in the S.A.M.E. system, monitors over 80 weather and other emergency events and categories, and can save data for up to 25 simultaneous events. Continue reading