Shortly before sunrise on November 16, 2006 a dangerous F3 tornado approached Riegelwood, a small community in southeastern North Carolina. Most of the residents were still asleep or just beginning their workday. Being that it was mid November, the possibility of a tornado was far from anyone’s mind. The town’s residents were completely unaware of the deadly danger about to bear down on them.
At 6:29 am, The National Weather Service office in Wilmington, NC issued a tornado warning. Eight minutes later the tornado touched down and ripped through the small town. Within a few seconds, 8 people were dead and 20 more were seriously injured. Among the dead were 4 children under the age of 12.
Severe Weather Can Strike At Any Time
Severe weather like tornadoes, thunderstorms and flash floods can strike at any time and with little warning. Storms like this develop very quickly and their lifespan is relatively short. But during their brief life, severe weather events bring terrible destruction, injury and loss of life. Every year, Americans cope with an average of 10,000 thunderstorms, 2,500 floods, 1,000 tornadoes, and an average of six deadly hurricanes. Approximately 90 percent of all presidentially declared disasters are weather related, causing nearly 500 deaths per year and nearly $14 billion in damage.
While we have no way of controlling the weather, we do have technology that can give us enough time to seek safety.
Weather Warnings by Radio
NOAA Weather Radio is perhaps one of the best kept secrets in the United States. Many are unaware that the National Weather Service operates over 1,000 radio transmitters throughout the country continuously streaming current weather conditions, forecasts, warnings, and other crucial weather information, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
NOAA Weather Radio advises people of severe weather watches and warnings, buying extra time for people to react before dangerous storms hit their area. When you’re in the path of something like a tornado, seconds can mean the difference between life and death.
However, a special kind of radio receiver is needed that is capable of receiving the alerts. NOAA Weather Radios are available in electronics stores, sporting goods stores, marine supply stores, and on the Web. They are inexpensive (starting at about $30.00) and programmable for a specific area. NOAA Weather Radios are built to utilize the features of NOAA Weather Radio.
Each advisory, watch, or warning transmitted by NWS is preceded by a special alert signal. When these signals are detected by the receiver, the radio responds by activating a built-in audio or visual alarm. The alarm feature is especially useful for warnings that are issued during the night when most people are asleep. In this case, a weather radio acts much like your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors – waking and giving you precious time to react.
NOAA Weather Radio also broadcasts alerts of non-weather emergencies such as national security, natural, environmental, and public safety (i.e. AMBER Alerts) through the Emergency Alert System making it an «All Hazards» warning system.
The best Weather Radios use SAME (Specific Area Message Encoding) technology. SAME technology makes use of a series of special digital tones that identifies the type of warning being sent and the specific geographic location the event affects. SAME allows you to filter out distant warning broadcasts and monitor only those messages intended for your local area. For example if you live in a coastal community but not right on the beach, you may not be interested in a Coastal Flood Warning. You can set the receiver to disregard Coastal Flood advisories and alerts.
SAME technology is also the primary trigger for activating the Emergency Alert System used by commercial radio, television and cable TV outlets.
Each county in the U.S. is assigned a 6-digit code by the NWS. This code can be easily programmed into the radio (Detailed instructions for your area is included with the radio.). Once the code is set the radio responds only to alerts issued for the area programmed. If you move, the radio can be reprogrammed for your new location.
Depending on the model you choose, further programming can be done to minimize false alarms or to include neighboring counties in your alert area. This is important for those who live near county borders.
SAME radios are available in both desktop and portable models. Portable radios allow you to take the radio with you wherever you go and they can be reprogrammed to work when you’re on vacation or on the road. If you work outside or participate in outdoor activities, a portable unit can alert you to unknown weather dangers wherever you happen to be.
For desktop models, a battery backup feature is important. Having the option to operate independent of commercial power will keep the receiver armed and working even if the power fails.
Models are also available for those who are hearing or site impaired.
Weather Radio has evolved over the years to broadcast non-weather emergency information making the system an «All Hazards» network. Information of events such as chemical spills, earthquakes, and even terrorist attack are broadcast if the need arises.
While we cannot recommend any specific brand of receiver, we do recommend that the radio you consider a model that features the Public Alert Logo. This standard was adopted by the Consumer Electronics Association in conjunction with the National Weather Service. Radios that carry the Public Alert Logo meet specific technical standards and include all the features mentioned here.
We have smoke detectors in our homes that alert us to fire. We have carbon monoxide detectors that alert us to potential deadly gasses from our furnaces/fireplaces/gas heaters. An NOAA Weather Radio should be included in your arsenal of weapons to safeguard against severe and deadly weather events. Early warnings of severe weather can give you just enough time to take cover and keep you and your family from becoming a severe weather victim.
For more information about these lifesaving radio receivers, visit the NOAA Weather Radio Website.
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