What Is The US Weather Radio Service?

Just how can you use the Weather Radio Service to protect yourself and your family?

Weather Radio is a term used for two slightly different things.

The first is a service which provides warnings to the publicof a wide range of weather emergencies, plus an equally impressive number of civil emergencies, such as hazardousmaterial spills.

The second is the radio receiver which is either designedspecifically to receive these broadcasts, or is a morenormal radio which will received an extended range of frequencies, including those used by weather radio.

This article concentrates on the Weather Radio service.Information and reviews covering weather radio sets can be found on the Weather Radios page.

So What Is Weather Radio?

Weather Radio is a dedicated radio network in the USA which provides weather information routinely, and alerts when necessary. The warnings are provided by the Emergency Alert Service (EAS) and include all forms of weather warnings, plus alerts on civil and other natural emergencies such as hazardous material spills, fires, law enforcement warnings, and even instances of child abduction.

As far as I know, a dedicated service like this is not available in other countries, which are likely to rely on interrupting normal radio and TV services with weather warnings when necessary.

To make sure of clear reception, the warnings are broadcast on frequencies away from the range of normal AM/FM radio, so a special type of Weather Radio Set is needed to receive them. They look very similar to normal AM/FM receivers, and come in portable and desk topmodels.

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Weather Radio Coverage

NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) is a nationwide network of radio stations broadcasting from over 900 transmitters covering the 50 states and adjacent waters, plus Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and U.S. Pacific Territories.

The broadcasts originate from a nearby National Weather Service Office 24 hours a day, and, apart from forecasts, include NWS watches, warnings, and any other hazard information when necessary. Post event reports and summaries are also included. More information is available at the NOAA Weather Radio Homepage.

This combination of weather warnings with advice from the Emergency Alert Service (EAS) provides a single source for information on severe weather and all other emergencies.

Transmitters broadcast over a range of about 40 - 50 miles (65-80km), unless reduced by local terrain. Seven frequenciesare used - 162.40, 162.425, 162.450, 162.475, 162.50, 162.525,and 162.550 MHz.

Coverage overall is excellent. With the occasional exceptionof rugged areas, it is effectively 100% in those areas mostlikely to be affected by severe or extreme weather - the hurricane coasts, Tornado Alley, and areas subject to flooding and blizzards. Elsewhere the coverage drops offa little, although most populated areas are covered.

Signal and Access Problems

But there are still some areas which miss out. If you livein one, pay close attention to your local radio and TVstations, who will issue emergency broadcasts when necessary. You can also find information on the internet,particularly from your nearest National Weather Serviceoffice. But keep in mind that if you lose power, you'llalso lose your internet connection.

Which brings me to the subject of batteries. In a sustainedemergency, such as a hurricane or severe ice storm, youmay lose power for days. All genuine weather radios willwork off battery power, provided there are enough freshbatteries around. Another alternative is a hand crankedweather radio, where 60 - 90 seconds of cranking shouldgive you an hour of power.

And finally, people with hearing or sight problems can alsobenefit from weather radio. Apart from pagers, severalmanufacturers of weather radio receivers also make addons such as flashing lights, pillow shakers, or textprinting devices. Many of the better radios also have a LED panel which describes the nature of the emergency.

And just a reminder - Weather Radio receivers are described and reviewed on the Weather Radio Set page.

The Severe Weather page includes information and links to articles on the types of weather that are likely to result in weather watches or warnings being sent by Weather Radio.

This link will take you back to the Top, or, when you're ready, here's how to return to the Home page.
But just before you move on...

You may be interested to know that you can find out more about weather and home weather stations by receiving our newsletter ,"Watching Weather". It's published more or less weekly, and apart from tips on how to use your weather station and understand what it's telling you about the weather around you, it also covers many other weather related topics.

If this sounds interesting, just add your name and email address to the form below. When you join, you'll also receive, totally free, a 20 page guide to setting up and trouble shooting problems in home weather stations.

And I promise that you won't get spammed, and that your sign up details will remain totally confidential.

Sign up now and receive your first issue almost immediately.

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Last update 05/25/2011