Hopefully, many of you were able to catch our tornado special that aired Tuesday about preparing for severe weather and tornado season. If so, you may be taking a few preemptive measures to help make sure you and your family are informed and safe in the event of severe weather. In addition to the ABC-13 Weather Call service we discussed, we briefly touched on NOAA Weather Radios. If you wish to invest in a NOAA Weather Radio, here is some more information that may be useful to you.
A NOAA Weather Radio (or NWR for short) is a special radio that is able to broadcast weather and public safety information. Because the information is broadcast on a specific frequency, you need a special radio in order to pick up the signal. They are available from retailers like Target or Radio Shack, and are also available online. Just ask or search for "NOAA Weather Radio". These radios range in cost from about $20-$100, depending on which model you get and which features it includes.
Some helpful features to look for when selecting a NWR include an alarm and SAME coding. The alarm function will sound if an alert is issued for your area, even if the radio is on silent (it just has to be on)! The SAME feature stands for Specific Area Message Encoding. This is a very useful feature that allows you to choose which county you would like to receive alerts for, so you will not have to hear alerts for the entire area that your station covers (which may span several counties). Some radios even allow you to enter more than one SAME code, so you would be able to hear alerts for not only your county, but immediate surrounding counties, if you wish. The newer weather radios even use a visual lighting system in addition to the audio. This feature will use a different color light when a warning, watch, or advisory is issued (red, yellow, and green, respectively). This is useful for the hearing impaired and also if you miss the beginning of the audio alert, you will know what level of urgency you are dealing with by the colored light. Most radios will also have a battery backup as a source of power, but that is something to check for as well. In the event you lose power, you will want to make sure your radio is able to still run on batteries.
In addition, NOAA weather radios are considered an "all-hazard" type of alert system. This means that in the event of a non-weather related emergency (chemical releases, oil spills, nuclear power plant emergencies, AMBER alerts, and terrorist attacks for example) state or local officials may also choose to broadcast information via the weather radio.
Types of alerts that are issued include severe thunderstorm watches and warnings, tornado watches and warnings, and all types winter weather advisories, watches, and warnings. During non-severe weather events, the weather radio will still broadcast continuous weather information 24 hours a day, such as current conditions, hazardous weather outlooks, and short-term forecasts.
If you do own or plan to purchase a NOAA Weather Radio, here is some more useful information. The Lynchburg site operates on channel 162.550, and covers Amherst, Appomattox, Bedford, Buckingham, Campbell, Charlotte, Halifax, Lexington, Lynchburg, Prince Edward, and Rockbridge. Again, the SAME function would allow you to eliminate hearing alerts for ALL of those counties, and just choose the ones you want. If you still have more questions, the National Weather Service has a Frequently Asked Questions paged.