Saturday, April 26, 2008

NOAA All Hazards Radio - Own One!

Ok, so I try to follow up each post regarding severe weather threats with a reminder to battery up and turn on your NOAA All Hazards Radio (AKA Weather Alert Radio). Some of you may not know exactly what that is, so let me do my best to explain and make suggestions. If you get bored, at least go to the end to read the suggestions I make.

A NOAA All Hazards Radio is a radio that receives transmissions free from the National Weather Service (NWS). In times of severe weather, or other hazards, a tone is sent that will activate the radio to alert you so that you don't have to have it on all the time to be warned. These can be purchased for approximately $40.

Several years ago, a technology emerged with these radios that allowed the NWS to send a special code in the alert that would activate radios for specific counties. This technology is called SAME (Specific Area Message Encoding). I could go into lots of details, but basically what this means is you can avoid being annoyed by alerts for areas you don't need to be concerned about.

Back in the day, when I had my first radio, this technology wasn't around, and my radio went off for the entire county warning area for Springfield, so that meant as severe weather moved from the eastern KS counties, all the way over to SE MO. That was bad mojo. It encouraged owners to shut them off eventually, especially those who lived on the western edge where the weather had cleared.

These radios can save your life, and at the bare minimum, offer you a peace of mind when you go to bed at night when you are expecting severe weather. Let's avoid this quote from ever being printed again - "The National Weather Service had issued warnings for the area about 30 minutes before the tornado struck, but many people were asleep and not aware of them."

I do not recommend any brand or place of purchase. But I will offer examples that will help the person with no technical abilities. These examples will cost a bit more money, and those who are capable of configuring the radios themselves, well, by all means save some money and order they online or something.


  1. Get a radio with S.A.M.E. technology. You only want it to go off for the areas that concern you, not for all 37 counties the Springfield NWS office warns for. That will get annoying, and you will end up shutting it off. Don't buy a radio without S.A.M.E.
  2. If it is a pain in the butt, you won't buy it or use it. If you don't want to hassle with setup yourself, you can get one at Radio Shack, and they will program it for you in the store. They work on commission, so they are happy to help you if you buy one from them. The price difference is well worth it if this is your reason for not owning one.
  3. Have the radio programmed for your county and the county(ies) to your W and SW. Since most storms move NE or E, this will allow you to get warnings for storms moving into your area, but not yet there. If you live on the southern edge of your county, maybe even the county to your south would be good.
  4. There are radios now that not only can be set to only go off for specified counties, but you can set them to only go off for certain watches and warnings. A watch means conditions are favorable for the type of watch posted (tornado watch, severe thunderstorm watch, etc). A warning means that type of weather event is currently happening. So if you only want to be alerted for tornado warnings, for example, then you can program it to do that. The reason this is good is that you can avoid being awakened by an alarm for a flash flood warning if you don't have to worry about flash floods. I consider this feature to be a MUST have.
So there you have it. Please feel free to email me if you have any questions, I'll be glad to help guide you in the right direction. My contact information is listed in the right side menu. I feel very strongly about this subject, and want to encourage everyone to own one to protect themselves and their families. Be safe.

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