With all the electronic gear already weighing down your shelves, car dashboard, and pocket or purse, why buy a device that serves mainly to give you the willies about your own and your family’s safety whenever the weather turns nasty?
Simple answer: call it the eight-minute rule. Disaster officials estimate a radio capable of receiving National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) all-hazards Weather Radio alerts may provide up to eight minutes of warning to move your family and pets to a secure location when a tornado strikes.
You may not think you need a Weather Radio because you listen to alerts on regular radio. But the radio you use may not alert you the instant an official watch or warning is issued. A Weather Radio will, and it will keep you informed on a wide range of emergencies, including earthquakes, chemical spills, nuclear accidents, terrorist attacks, and child abductions.
Consumers have range of options, prices
Weather Radio receiver options range from hand-held portable units good only for a Weather Radio to desktop and console models that can receive other radio broadcasts as well. Prices range from about $20 to about $200. Weather Radio transmitters broadcast on one of seven VHF frequencies. None can be picked up by a standard AM/FM radio.
The National Weather Service, a branch of NOAA, produces all Weather Radio broadcasts. The federal government neither makes nor sells receivers, though it does provide public alert radios free to schools.
You can buy Weather Radio receivers from electronics, department, sporting goods, and boat and marine accessory stores, and their catalogs. They can also be purchased online.
NOAA suggests consumers look for receivers that carry the Public Alert logo, which signifies the equipment meets standards developed by the Consumer Electronics Association and the National Weather Service. Make sure the radio you buy has seven channels, an audible or visible alert feature, and battery backup.
Weather warnings: the shriek that saves
A Weather Radio will automatically activate when NOAA broadcasts a special shrieking, warbling tone, so you can rely on it at all hours of the day or night.
Heavy sleepers and the hearing-impaired can connect Weather Radios to strobe lights, pagers, computers, even bed-shaking devices.
You can limit alerts to those that concern you most. Using the Weather Radio’s Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME), you can choose to receive alerts only for a particular area, such as your county. Some receivers also allow users to turn off alerts for certain events, such as coastal floods.
Weather Radio’s 1,000 transmitters cover all 50 states, adjacent coastal waters, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the U.S. Pacific Territories. Your receiver will also work in Canada.