Weather Radios - How They Work

Previously we provided information on what weather radios are and their purpose. This article pertains to how weather radios work. Once you have selected a radio that fits your needs, you need to learn how it works. Most radios have a power cord that you can plug into the wall to operate the radio. They all have or should have battery backup in the event of a power failure or if it is a portable radio that you can carry with you. These radios broadcast weather information on seven channels or frequencies throughout the US. By reviewing the FIPS codes you can find the closest tower that transmits in your area. Afer you find that frequency you should hear a continuous broadcast for your area. If the radio has S.A.M.E. technology as we discussed in the previous article (and it should) you need to program it. You can program your county, several adjacent counties, or all counties in the coverage area. The instruction book along with the FIPS codes will allow you to do this.

In the event of an emergency in the county or counties you have programmed the radio will sound an alert tone followed by the weather watch or warning along with pertinent information concerning actions that you should take at the time of the alert.

Watches and warnings are broadcast based on weather conditions in your area that may be worth watching or paying attention to, or by taking emergency shelter in the event of a warning. Many watches are based on radar conditions and weather forecasts that the local NWS office is monitoring. In the event of a warning (tornado, flash flood, or severe thunderstorm) the information may be obtained by what the forecaster sees on doppler radar or live reports from trained weather spotters or local emergency personnel. If the the NWS issues some type of watch for your area you should be aware that conditions are possible for that type of weather. If they issue a warning you should follow the instructions the forecaster gives via the weather radio which may involve taking shelter immediately in the event of a tornado or move to a safer location in the event of flooding. More people are killed in the US by floods that any other weather event. These watches and warnings should be taken seriously and you should have a plan for immediate action in the event of a warning.