Following the violent and deadly tornadoes in Mississippi and Tennessee over the weekend that killed over 22 people and injured over two dozen people, there were once again reports that residents in these areas had no warning of the tornado threat. They never heard a tornado siren.
Being able to hear a tornado siren within your residence or building continues to be one of the most common misconceptions members of the weather community continue to battle because the tornado siren, which should more properly be labeled an outdoor tornado siren, was technically designed as an outdoor warning system only to alert individuals who are outside of an incoming dangerous threat. Often when the tornado siren goes off on test days, which usually occur once a month, many people can hear the siren pretty well within their residence because it is a clear weather day. No other factors impact the sound of the siren, for example, thunder, heavy rain, hail, or wind. Don't let that put you into a false sense of security that you will be able to hear it when it matters the most. No, make sure to have multiple ways to receive severe weather alerts, and have one of those means be through a weather radio.
It is recommended to have multiple sources for receiving weather alerts, just in case one source fails. Cell phones or an app on a cell phone are among those great options, but like many things, they have their faults. Cell phones, for example, require a power source to charge them, and if the cell towers are taken out from strong winds or are overwhelmed by an increase in usage, you could lose service. This means you won't be able to get the alert. Weather Radios use seven VHF frequencies dedicated to weather alerting and don't use cell phone towers to transmit the alerts. So they won't become overwhelmed by increased usage. Additionally, weather radios often have two sources of power, sometimes three, depending on which radio you buy. These power sources include wall outlet power, battery backup, and in some cases, emergency crank.
The additional benefit of having a weather radio in addition to your other backup sources for weather alerts is the various alert options that come with the weather radio. Every weather radio will have an audible tone designed to wake you in the middle of the night, similar to a fire alarm. Additionally, for the hearing impaired, or heavy sleepers, you can purchase additional accessories, including an adaptor that can vibrator your pillow and set off a strobe light when an alert is issued to wake you or single that an alert was issued.
When most people think of weather radios, they think they only need them when there is a threat of tornadoes. While this is often one of the main things they are used for, there are several other inclement weather situations where a weather radio could ultimately save you or a loved one's life, including Flash Flooding or Wild Fires alerts. For example, the newest weather radios, like the Midland WR400, alert for 80 emergency alert types, including Flooding, Fire, and Tropical, to name a few. If needed, these alerts can be turned on or off within the weather radio.
You can pick up a weather radio from several places, including your local Walmart, Walgreens, or Amazon. They will usually range around $30-40, but Midland has teamed up with Meteorologist James Spann and the WeatherBrains Podcast to provide a special 25% off discount for all weather products and accessories at midlandusa.com. The promo code is SPANN25. A few weather radios I would recommend would be the Midland WR120B or the WR120EZ and the Midland WR400.
Weather Radio How-To Set Up
If you pick up a Midland WR120B or WR120 EZ weather radio, you will find two How-To videos below for setting up that radio. While not the same, these How-To videos could also show you how to set up the majority of the WR400 as well. The second video will also show you how to use and set up your Strobe Light accessory if you invest in one for your weather radio.
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