THE VOICE OF THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE
All National Weather Service offices operate VHF radio broadcasts on a taped cycle to provide the population with the latest weather observations, forecasts, and warning information 24 hours a day. These broadcasts, called NOAA Weather Radio (NWR), can be heard using specially built radios. The broadcast can also be heard on some scanners. The signal generally can be heard in a 40-mile radius from the transmitter site, although this can vary greatly depending upon your terrain and surroundings. NWR radios cost as little as $20, and most cost less than $60.
The routine cycle can be interrupted to broadcast life-threatening warning information, such as a severe thunderstorm, tornado, flash flood, or blizzard warning. Most weather radios are designed with an alarm feature to warn of the impending hazard. However, this alarm will sound or LED will flash whenever a warning was issued for anywhere in the listening area. Certain newer radios are equipped with digital decoding technology, called Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME), to sound the alarm only for counties you have chosen. SAME codes are the driving force behind the Emergency Alert System (formerly known as the Emergency Broadcast System). Understandably, these radios cost a bit more, but still aren't excessively expensive.
The computer that controls NWR is called the Console Replacement System (CRS). There are several reasons why the radio is controlled by a computer. Most important, a computer can capture products as they are issued, encode the SAME message (if applicable) quickly and automatically, and rebroadcast them in a matter of seconds, saving valuable time. This is especially true during active warning situations. Since we operate six radios (soon to be seven), if the warning is encoded, read, and recorded by a human, there could be a significant time lag between warning issuance and broadcast.
A NOAA Weather Radio with the Alarm/Alert feature can be a life saver in the event of dangerous weather in your community. Hopefully, the day will soon come when NWR will be as commonplace in people's homes as a smoke detector.