NWR broadcasts National Weather Service (NWS) warnings, watches, forecasts and other non-weather related hazard information 24 hours a day. During an emergency, NWS forecasters interrupt routine broadcasts and send a special tone activating local weather radios. Weather radios equipped with a special alarm tone feature sound an alert to give you immediate information about a life-threatening situation. NWR broadcasts warnings and post-event information for all types of hazards: weather (e.g., tornadoes, floods), natural (e.g., earthquakes, forest fires and volcanic activity), technological (e.g., chemical releases, oil spills, nuclear power plant emergencies, etc.), and national emergencies (e.g., terrorist attacks). Working with other Federal agencies and the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Emergency Alert System (EAS), NWR is an all-hazards radio network, making it the most comprehensive weather and emergency information available to the public. Life-threatening weather emergency messages are alerted on NWR. Many of those same weather-related emergency messages are also broadcast via the EAS.
For non-weather emergencies, NWS activates the system at the request of local and/or state officials. NWS does not initiate the contact or the message. Local or state officials provide text information about the non-weather hazard directly to the local NWS offices. NWS offices set up agreements to speed the process, since minutes make a difference. In most areas, the local or state Office of Emergency Management or Preparedness, civil defense, police or mayor/commissioner sets up linkages to send messages on systems such as the EAS and NWR.
Weather Radio Specific Area Message Encoder (SAME), digital coding is employed to activate only those special receivers programmed for specific emergency conditions in a specific area, typically a county. When an NWS office broadcasts a warning, watch or non-weather emergency, it also broadcasts a digital SAME code that may be heard as a very brief static burst, depending on the characteristics of the receiver. This SAME code contains the type of message, county(s) affected, and message expiration time. A programmed NWR SAME receiver will turn on for that message, with the listener hearing the 1050 Hz warning alarm tone as an attention signal, followed by the broadcast message.At the end of the broadcast message, listeners will hear a brief digital end-of-message static burst followed by a resumption of the NWR broadcast cycle.SAME is also used in the Emergency Alert System (EAS). See EAS for more information. Using SAME, broadcasters may receive NWR warning messages for rebroadcast in accordance with EAS rules.
NOAA Weather Radio automation is produced by an upgraded program Console Replacement System (CRS). The CRS is a personal computer-based broadcasting console, installed at each NWS office, that automatically translates and schedules written National Weather Service forecasts and warnings into synthesized- voice broadcasts over NOAA Weather Radio. The automated broadcast programs for NOAA Weather Radio frees NWS staff to spend more time on critical warning and forecasting duties. In addition, the automatic weather broadcast consoles provide a more efficient means of disseminating severe weather watches, warnings and emergency information over NOAA weather radio. The system is part of a multi-year improvement of the National Weather Service NOAA Weather Radio network. NOAA Weather Radio and the CRS are critical to the NWS mission of disseminating watches and warnings of hazardous weather for the protection of life and property. . However, CRS will still allow a human broadcaster to broadcast live if needed during very hazardous weather.
NWR currently broadcasts from over 450 FM transmitters on seven frequencies in the VHF band, ranging from 162.400 to 162.550 megahertz (MHZ) in fifty states, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, and Saipan. These frequencies are outside of the normal AM or FM broadcast bands.
Depending on the information you want to access, and how and where you plan to access our broadcasts, you have many options. There are standalone Weather Radio receivers as well as multi-band/function receivers with the weather band included. If you are want to be alerted to Warnings and Watches day or night, a standalone receiver might work best for you. If you just want to be able to tune to in the weather broadcast and do not care about receiving alerts, a general multi-band/function receiver could be better. Special radios that receive only NWR, both with and without special alerting features, are available from several manufacturers. In addition, other manufacturers are including NWR as special features on an increasing variety of receivers. NWR capability is currently available on some automobile, aircraft, marine, citizen band, and standard AM/FM radios, as well as on communications receivers, transceivers, scanners, and cable TV.
By nature and design, NWR coverage is usually limited to an area within 40 miles of the transmitter. The quality of what is heard is dictated by the distance from the transmitter, local terrain, and the quality and location of the receiver. In general, those on flat terrain or at sea, using a high quality receiver, can expect reliable reception far beyond 40 miles. People living in cities surrounded by large buildings and those in mountain valleys with standard receivers may experience little or no reception at considerably less than 40 miles. If possible, a receiver should be tested in the location where it will be used prior to purchase.
NWR is directly available to approximately "70" to 80 percent of the U.S. population. The National Weather Service is currently engaged in a program to increase coverage to 95 percent of the population. To learn more about the national NOAA Weather Radio program, check out our local NWR Homepage.