The smoke detector of severe weather

Clip art of a tornado and smoke detector

NOAA weather radio receivers are the smoke detectors of severe weather. Just as every place (especially every home) needs a smoke detector (many jurisdictions now require them), every place needs a radio that will alert occupants to severe weather in their vicinity.

Dennis Mersereau's profile picture
Mersereau

I’ve previously used this blog to advocate the installation and use of weather radios. One of my favorite weather bloggers, Dennis Mersereau, recently used his blog to do the same. The smoke detector analogy is his, and it’s a good one.

Don’t sleep through a tornado warning!

Mersereau is also correct when he writes, “the best argument for a weather radio is that it will help protect you while you’re asleep. ” I made the same point several weeks ago during an interview with a local television station. Weather radios will reliably assure that you’re warned of dangerous weather anytime, day or night, whether you’re awake or asleep, just as a smoke detector will warn you of fire.

“The best argument for a weather radio is that it will help protect you while you’re asleep.”

One of the unfortunate things about weather radios, however, is that unlike a smoke detector, you can easily turn off a radio. My first weather alert radio would remain silent until the National Weather Service sent a warning tone, then it would scream with a siren noise.  Because a single weather radio transmitter usually covers several counties (parishes). my radio would often scream about weather that would never affect my home. The temptation to turn it off was great. I’ve learned that many people did just that.

Modern radios use a technology called Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME). It’s a system that allows weather radios to remain silent until a warning is issued for your own county. This means there’s never any reason to turn off the radio.

My smartphone won’t wake me

Mersereau points out that people who have weather alert smartphone apps often believe they don’t need a weather radio. I have both. The “Weather Radio by WDT” app on my iPhone usually sounds off at about the same time my weather radio does.

But there’s a problem. I have my phone set to go to “do not disturb” mode every night at bedtime. This keeps it from waking me with text messages or phone calls while I’m sleeping (except for calls from a few important people in my “24/7” list). The weather radio app does not override the “do not disturb” setting, so unless I remember to disable “do not disturb” when I go to bed (e.g. because severe weather is in the night’s forecast), the app will not wake me with a weather warning. I’ve heard that this disadvantage is common to all apps on Apple devices, because it’s a “feature” of Apple’s operating system, iOS.

I don’t know if Android apps have the same issue. But you can count on a weather radio to wake you, even when your phone is in “do not disturb” mode, its battery is dead, or it loses its data signal.

Less than $50

You can buy a SAME-equipped weather radio for less than $50. Aren’t the lives of everyone who might ever be in your house when severe weather strikes worth that?

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