RICHMOND, Va. -- This year’s hurricane season, one of the worst on record, has shown the importance of having up-to-the-minute weather information. As essential as a smoke detector for fires, a special National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio can alert you to approaching severe weather.
The National Weather Service broadcasts forecasts and severe weather warnings and watches 24-hours a day over the NOAA radio network. A watch means that potentially bad weather is headed toward your area. A warning means that bad weather is imminent or already occurring. Watches and warnings cover hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, thunderstorms, lightning and winter storms.
Most weather radios have a special alarm tone that signals a severe weather watch or warning. These tones then activate the radio to alert you to the situation.
If you have a hearing impairment, you can purchase a weather radio that can be hooked to a special alarm, such as a light or a bed vibrator. When a warning is issued, these radios display the nature of the emergency (tornado, flood, etc.), alerting you to take appropriate action. If you want more information you can turn on your television, where there should be a text crawl detailing the situation from the Emergency Alert System. You can also log onto weather.gov for an update.
You can purchase a weather radio for about $30 to $70 at stores that sell electronic equipment. You can also buy them from catalogs or on the Internet.
Make sure the radio you buy has seven channels, an audible or visual warning alert feature and battery backup. Special models and attachments can also be purchased for the hearing and visually impaired. Some higher-priced models radios have Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME) technology that lets you pre-select the alerts you want to receive, based on the locality where you live.
The National Weather Service does not endorse any particular make or model of receiver. However, NOAA has a list of weather radio and emergency alert system receiver manufacturers at http://www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/nwrrcvr.htm.