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A Publication Featuring The Information Services Technology of Maine State Government

Volume V, Issue 11 December 2002

Christmas Trees

Using Weather Radios to Stay in the Know!

By Eugene A. Maxim

Weather Radios, like smoke detectors, stand ready to alert people even while they’re sleeping to possibly hazardous situations. The NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) system ( broadcasts pre-event warnings and post-event information for all types of public hazards such as weather (hurricane, tornado, dam breach, flood), natural (earthquake, forest fires), technological (chemical release, oil spill), and national emergencies (nuclear, biological, chemical) etc.

The NOAA Weather Radio system is the most reliable, effective, single source available to the public for comprehensive weather and emergency information. Broadcast coverage is widespread with over 750 transmitters ( ) covering all 50 states, adjacent coastal waters, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the U.S. Pacific Territories, and there are more transmitters going up every week. Weather Radios are also useful travel accessories since they also receive constantly updated local weather information that NWR broadcasts 24/7/365.

There are many manufacturers of Weather Radios ( offering a variety of models, features, and prices. All Weather Radios include two basic capabilities - battery back up operation and a "set it and forget it" emergency alert mode. When a potentially harmful event may occur the National Weather service can broadcast a special tone that causes all weather radios to sound a loud ten second alert tone. The weather radio is then turned on to hear the broadcast. Some of the more expensive models can be set to automatically go to the voice message when an alert is transmitted; and there are models with an alarm out jack that allow the weather radio to be tied into some home security systems. Many weather alert radios are available with Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME). This feature allows the user to limit weather radio alerts to only those that affect a specific county(s) and to choose which hazards will activate the Weather Radio alert tone. Add on accessories (see or ) are available for the hearing impaired such as pillow vibrators, bed shakers, and strobe lights. For about $70.00, there are battery operated models, with belt clips, that have both SAME and Family Radio Service (FRS) capability. FRS allows for two-way voice communication (up to two miles over land, and up to five miles over water) between all FRS radios that are set to the same channel.

Some Purchase Considerations Lower priced models may not pull in stations that are further away. This may be okay if the weather radio will be permanently located in an area with a strong signal.

Coverage areas for the map below are approximate as reception can be affected by icing, heavy rain, or other severe weather conditions.

Note that broadcast coverage for new transmitters being installed at Carrabassett Valley, Greenville, Meddybemps, Springfield, and in the Jonesport-Columbia Falls area is not shown yet.

- Weather Radio Map

Dark circles represent currently operating transmitters.  Lighter circles are funded broadcast sites in development stages.

Maine Map - Weather Sites

NOAA Broadcast Coverage Map For Maine Area Weather Radio Transmitter Sites.

Maps courtesy of Hendricus Lulofs, National Weather Service, Caribou, Maine.

Questions? E-mail the author, a Natural Hazards Planner at the Maine Emergency Management Agency, at

Christmas Trees

Up ] Calais, Maine - City on the Edge of Forever ] Challenge for December ] EDS Software Gift to Maine Students ] Homeland Security Still a Priority ] InforME 2002 Expansion and Promotion ] Maine Expands Maine ] Maine Revenue Services’ New Data Warehouse ] Meet the BIS Administrative Support Staff! ] Preserving State of Maine Spatial Data: ] Transitions for December ] [ Weather Radios – A Perfect Gift to Stay in the Know! ] What is Customer Service ]