of your personal weather warning system is a NOAA All-Hazards Radio.
When severe weather threatens, normal programming is interrupted, and
appropriate alerting information is immediately put on the air
as a service to boaters, NOAA All-Hazards Radio (AHR) has evolved into
the all hazards warning system that it is today. In the early 1990s, a
major improvement effort was ordered by then Vice President Al Gore to
improve coverage of the NOAA All-Hazards Radio system. Now, there are
over 900 transmitters operating across all fifty states, broadcasting
general weather forecasts and information 24 hours a day, seven days a
week. After the recent attack on our nation, it was decided that AHR is
an excellent means to communicate 'all hazards' information to the
general population. The latest model radios are capable of alerting for
weather emergencies, man made mishaps, other natural occurrences like
earthquakes and tsunamis, and even Amber alerts, according to the
wishes of the local emergency managers, police, and other civil
authorities. This is accomplished using Specific Area Message Encoding
or SAME. SAME allows capable radios to be muted and only alarm for the
events that you feel important, and affecting only your area. This
avoids the pitfall of the older alerting radios which sounded for every
alert broadcast, whether one's location was in imminent danger or not.
This led to many radios being shut off when they were needed most due
to a perception of alarming too frequently. The SAME system lessens the
possiblity of excessive alarms.
We here in the
tri-county area are covered by two easily heard AHR transmitters and
one relay transmitter. Our primary AHR source is KXI58, located on the
WSPY tower in Plano. It broadcasts alerts for DeKalb, Kendall, Kane,
and LaSalle Counties. A secondary source is WNG536, located on the
campus of Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. It broadcasts alerts
for DeKalb, Ogle, Lee, Boone, Winnebago, and Stephenson Counties. There
are at least two other AHR stations that can be heard in our area, but
their signals are not strong enough to reliably activate the radios. In
addition, the Sandwich Emergency Management Agency rebroadcasts the
signal of KXI58/Plano on our low-power AM radio station, which operates
on a frequency of 530kHz, or the low end of your AM dial. This signal
won't set off alarms on a standard AM radio, but it is an ideal backup
signal for when you are running errands around town, or otherwise away
from your AHR back at home.
Which AHR is for you?
That depends on your needs. We strongly suggest a SAME capable radio,
to avoid someone shutting that noisy thing off when it's needed the
most. Many electronics and department stores carry several different
types of AHR. The most visible brick-and-mortar retailer of AHR is
easily Radio Shack. They have a spectrum of units, ranging from a
pocket radio to several combination AHR and clock radios, most of them
SAME capable. They also have tunable monitors for the radio enthusiast
that cover the AHR frequencies. The SAME capable units are at the
higher end of the price range, but well worth the cost. Walgreen's
traditionally carries SAME capable AHRs as a 'spring special' yearly.
Other sporting goods stores have several types of AHR available.
Additionally, there are many online sellers of AHR offering numerous
brands and models at various prices. Which radio? There is no 'best'
unit. It depends completely on what your needs are. Will you be using
the radio at home? Maybe you need a portable AHR because you spend a
lot of time outdoors. There are even combination AHR and FRS
handie-talkies available. It's all dependent upon your needs and
budget. We suggest that you purchase at least a SAME capable radio, AC
powered with battery backup.