I’ve recently heard reports of some residents of the recent Joplin tornadoes complaining that they did not receive tornado warnings when they should have, specifically, their weather radios did not function as expected. Officials assert that alerts went out when they should have. So, who was to blame?Perhaps nobody was to blame. I don’t know. What I will say is that YOU can ensure you’re as ready as possible, in particular, by ensuring your weather radio is functioning properly.
Tip #1: Ensure your weather radio is actually turned ON. This may seem like a “duh” tip, but, I would warn you that many radios do feature the ability to turn off the alert and, where others are involved (especially children), you could unexpectedly find that your weather radio may not alert you as expected when you need it the most. I’ve found my weather radio turned off more than once… and there’s only one reason why… my kids.
Tip #2: Check backup batteries regularly. If your power goes out and the batteries are low or worse, dead, you obviously shouldn’t expect your weather radio to work properly. Make it a habit to check your batteries at least yearly–if not twice a year–along with the batteries in all other critical equipment such as flashlights and smoke detectors. Most experts recommend changing batteries regardless of their charge during daylight savings time changes. I’ve got a different time schedule that works for me… pick one that works for you and stick with it.
Tip #3: Do you have your S.A.M.E. code set properly? Most weather radios allow you to program a single or multiple six-digit Specific Area Message Encoding (S.A.M.E.) code to ONLY alert you to watches and warnings for you county, a very useful feature you should take advantage of. Now is a good time to check your codes with those listed on the NOAA weather radio site. To be more diligent, consider adding codes for nearby counties, specifically for those immediately to the West and South of your county for more advanced warnings.
Tip #4: Ensure you have appropriate watches and warnings turned ON: Some weather radios have the ability to turn specific watches and warnings on or off. While most radios come pre-programmed to warn you of nearly everything, it couldn’t hurt to double-check these settings periodically (perhaps every year) to ensure nobody else has inadvertently altered your warnings, or if purchased used from another individual that they did not turn off watches and warnings you would want to be alerted to. Be sure to consult your specific weather radio’s owner’s manual for more information if need be.
Tip #5: Place your weather radio in an easily accessible location: such as a bedroom or even kitchen. The point is not to place your only weather radio in the basement with the door closed because it’s been driving you crazy with a plethora of annoying alerts while you’re sound asleep two floors above. It’s meant to be obnoxious for a reason. Ensure it is set properly (as noted above) or look for a better weather radio that can program specific alerts. My own experience has taught me that spending an extra $10-20 for a better, programmable, weather radio is well worth the price.