WX: Weather Radio
A radio capable of receiving WX and other emergency related broadcasts is an essential piece of gear that everyone should have on hand AND in their Bug Out Bag.
NOAA Weather Radio NWR; also known as NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards is an automated 24-hour network of VHF FM weather radio stations in the United States (U.S.) that broadcast weather information directly from a nearby National Weather Service office. The routine programming cycle includes local or regional weather forecasts, synopsis, climate summaries or zone/lake/coastal waters forecasts (when applicable). During severe conditions the cycle is shortened into: hazardous weather outlooks, short-term forecasts, special weather statements or tropical weather summaries.
There are a variety of different types of weather radio receivers available in the U.S., including:
Professional-grade receivers, typically rack-mounted, for use by broadcast radio and television stations and public agencies who are responsible for acting on or retransmitting weather and emergency alert broadcasts.
Base-station consumer radios powered by commercial AC power (often with a battery backup).
Hand-held battery powered radios, suitable for use by hikers, boaters, and in emergency preparedness kits.
Hand-crank portable radios that do not require AC or battery power, especially designed for use in emergency preparedness kits. Most of these have the added advantage of being able to connect a USB Charging cable whcih will allow one to keep a mobile phone charged if the power is out.
Weather radio receivers integrated as an auxiliary function into other devices, such as GMRS radios, portable televisions, FM radios, etc.
Radio receiver modules, such as the Si4707 from Silicon Labs, designed for electronics experimenters and project builders have in the past been available.
I believe everyone should have two of the above radios. First, ensure you have a quality base station model with the auto alert capability at your home. This is especially important at night when you may be asleep during dangerous weather. These are available at the $20-50 price point. Purchasing one with a battery back up is a good idea.
Second, a portable, hand cranked radio is essential in an emergency situation. These can be purchased for between $10-20 and should be with your EDC Kit.
Whenever a weather or civil emergency alert is issued for any part of a NWR station's coverage area, many radios with an alert feature will sound an alarm or turn on upon detection of a tone that sounds just before the voice portion of an alert message. The specification calls for the NWS transmitter to sound the alert tone for ten seconds and for the receiver to react to it within five seconds. This system simply triggers the alarm or turns on the radio of every muted receiver within reception range of that NWR station (in other words, any receiver located anywhere within the transmitter's broadcast area). Generally, receivers with this functionality are either older or basic models.
Many newer or more sophisticated alerting receivers can detect, decode and react to a digital signal called Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME), which allows users to program their radios to receive alerts only for specific geographical areas of interest and concern, rather than for an entire broadcast area. These advanced models may also have colored LED status lights which indicate the level of the alert as an "advisory"/"statement", "watch" or "warning" (either amber or green for advisories and statements, orange or yellow for watches, red for warnings).
When an alert is transmitted, the alert is broadcast first (heard as three repeated audio "bursts"), followed by the 1,050 Hz attention tone, then the voice message, then the end-of-message (EOM) data signal (repeated quickly three times). This encoding/decoding technology has the advantage of avoiding "false alarms" triggered by the 1,050 Hz tone itself in locations outside the intended warning area. Broadcast areas are generally divided into SAME locations by county or marine zone using the standard U.S. Government FIPS county codes.
NOAA's SAME alert protocol was later adopted and put into use by the Emergency Alert System (EAS) in 1997 – the replacement for the earlier Emergency Broadcast System (EBS) and even earlier CONELRAD – now required by the FCC for standard broadcast TV and radio stations. Environment Canada eventually integrated SAME alerting capability into its Weatheradio Canada network in 2004. Organizations are able to disseminate and coordinate emergency alerts and warning messages through NOAA Weather Radio and other public systems by means of the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System.
Local NOAA offices update the content broadcast over NOAA Weather Radio transmitters on a regular basis, according to the following schedule:
|01:00–12:00||Area climate summary (played in 15-minute intervals during this period)|
|04:30||Regional forecast (updated)|
|05:00–07:00||Regional Weather Synopsis (updated at least once during this period)|
|07:00||Hazardous weather outlook and call for action for NWS-trained SKYWARN volunteer weather spotters (if warranted)|
|07:00||Regional climate summary (recorded sometime between 18:00 the previous night and 07:00 each day)|
|10:30||Regional forecast (updated)|
|12:00||Hazardous weather outlook and call for action for NWS-trained SKYWARN volunteer weather spotters (if warranted)|
|13:00–15:00||Three- to five-day extended forecast (updated twice a day during this period)|
|15:30||Regional forecast (updated)|
|16:00–22:00||Regional Weather Synopsis (updated at least once during this period)|
|17:00–21:00||Area climate summary (played in 15-minute intervals during specific days of the week)|
|20:30||Regional forecast (updated)|
Updates to routine observational products are typically recorded once per hour, and are broadcast at five or 10, and at 15 minutes past the hour.
These are additional products that are included in the broadcast cycle occasionally (but are broadcast at randomized times, depending on the individual transmitter[s]):
· Air Quality Index Statement
· Agricultural Forecast
· Area Forecast Discussion
· Area Weather Update
· Daily/Monthly Hydrometeorological Products
· Heat Index Forecast
· High Seas Forecast
· Hydro-Met Data Report
· Miscellaneous Hydrologic Data
· Miscellaneous Local Product
· Miscellaneous River Product
· Public Information Statement
· Offshore Forecast
· Quantitative Precipitation Forecast
· State Forecast
· Suppression Forecast
· Tabular State Forecast
· Terminal Aerodrome Forecast
· Travelers Forecast
There are also NOAA Weather Radio mobile apps that can be installed to a mobile device, such as a cellphone, or a tablet, where you can listen to live audio streams of various NOAA Weather Radio station broadcasts. However, these should be used as supplemental devices only, because internet and cell-based service can be unreliable during civil or weather emergencies.
You can find out more by checking out NOAA's Weather Radio Page at https://www.weather.gov/nwr/
Information and knowledge are amongst the most important things one can have to PREPARE, AVOID and SURVIVE weather emergencies. Evaluate your circumstances and needs, but get a weather radio in your home and kit as soon as possible. Make a habit of checking weather routinely, so you will aways be prepared for Life’s Next Adventure!