NOAA Weather Radio
Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions:

About Buying a Weather Radio:

About Programmable Radios:

Troubleshooting:

  1. I just brought my radio home and am not receiving a signal.  What's wrong?
  2. How can I be sure my radio's tone-alert feature is working properly?
  3. I was receiving alerts before, but have not received any lately.  I still get the broadcasts, though.  What should I do?
  4. The broadcast quality in my area is poor.  What can I do to improve reception?
  5. My NOAA Weather Radio often turns on when the forecast office issues watches and warnings that don't impact me. What can I do about that?
  6. I have trouble understanding the voice sometimes.  Can you do anything to improve it?
  7. Why is the name of my town mispronounced on the weather radio?
  8. I live in an area where I can't get NOAA Weather Radio transmissions. Is there another system in place for me to get forecasts, watches and warnings directly from the National Weather Service?
  9. How can I help my community get NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts?

NOAA Weather Radio Broadcasts over the Internet:

 


  1. What is NOAA Weather Radio?

    NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) is a nationwide network of radio stations broadcasting continuous weather information directly from a nearby National Weather Service (NWS) office. NWR broadcasts NWS warnings, watches, forecasts and other hazard information 24 hours a day. It is the "Smoke Detector of Severe Weather".

    Working with the Federal Communications Commission's new Emergency Alert System (EAS), NWR is an "all hazards" radio network, making it the single source for the most comprehensive weather and emergency information available to the public. NWR now broadcasts warning and post-event information for all types of hazards - both natural (such as earthquakes and volcano activity) and technological (such as chemical releases or oil spills).

    Known as the "Voice of the National Weather Service", NWR is provided as a public service by the National Weather Service, a component of the Department of Commerce's National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The NWR network has more that 450 transmitters, covering the 50 states, adjacent coastal waters, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the U.S. Pacific Territories. NWR requires a special radio receiver or scanner capable of picking up the signal found in the public service band between 162.400 and 162.550 MHz.


  2. What frequencies are used for NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts and how can I get a list of the frequencies for my state?

    The seven NWR broadcasts frequencies are 162.400 MHz, 162.425 MHz, 162.450 MHz, 162.475 MHz, 162.500 MHz, 162.525 MHz and 162.550 MHz. NWR coverage is expanding through NWS partnership programs with local communities. For the latest list of frequencies and transmitter locations, check the NOAA Weather Radio web site.

    Broadcast range from the weather radio transmitter is approximately 40 miles. The effective range depends on terrain, quality of the receiver and indoor/outdoor antennas. Before you buy a receiver for your home or business, make sure your area is covered by one the transmitters.  You may also want to consider a radio for your vehicle or camper for traveling.


  3. Can I get NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts in my car?

    Several automobile manufacturers (BMW, Mercedes, Range Rover and Saab) equip their cars with radios capable of receiving NWR broadcasts. Several manufacturers of car radios (Audiovox, Clarion and Panasonic) sell in-dash units capable of receiving NWR broadcasts.

    Manufacturers of citizen band radios with NWR channels include Cobra, Maxon, Midland, Radio Shack and Uniden.  See the Weather Radio Vendors page for a complete list. 

    You might also consider purchasing a portable weather radio for your vehicle or boat.


  4. What is a S.A.M.E. Weather Radio?

    SAME stands for "Specific Area Message Encoding", and is a special type of weather radio that allows you to choose the counties you want to be alerted for when a watch or warning is issued. Read more on our SAME/FIPS page.


  5. Are there special radios for the hearing/visually impaired?

    Some weather radios allow you to attach attention-getting devices such as strobe lights, bed-shakers, personal computers, and text printers. Check with electronics stores, electronics catalogs or conduct an Internet search for more details. 

    Many pager companies now offer alerting pagers that provide the latest weather information, although there is usually a monthly fee associated with a pager. 


  6. How will a weather radio help me if I lose power to my house in a storm?

    Many weather radios have a battery backup.  It is strongly recommended that you purchase a radio with this feature. Consider replacing the battery in your weather radio each year when the time changes to Daylight Savings Time.


  7. I watch TV for my weather information. Why do I need a weather radio? 

    NOAA Weather Radio is the "smoke detector of severe weather".  It is the only household device that will wake you up and get your attention if a severe weather warning is issued for your area.  Once you are aware of the hazard, you can tune into your favorite weather source for all the details.  

    Still not convinced? Remember, too, that it is recommended not to use computers or other electrical appliances during a thunderstorm, and if you lose power, you will likely lose your television reception anyway. 


  8. What's new and upcoming with NOAA Weather Radio?

    Several developments are under way. First, the NWS continues to work with local communities, businesses and non-profit organizations to install NOAA Weather Radio transmitters in areas of the nation not currently served by NWR broadcasts.

     


  9. Do they have Weather Radio everywhere in the US and Canada?

    Not yet.  In the U.S., the National Weather Service goal is to bring weather radio coverage to 95 percent of the US population.  Check the NWS weather radio listing for the current list of US stations.  For Canadian stations (operating on the same frequencies), check with  Environment Canada.


  10.  Where can I get a NOAA Weather Radio?

    They can be found in most electronic stores, department stores, and even some drug stores.  They are also widely available on the internet and in some electronics catalogs. 


  11. How much does a NOAA Weather Radio cost?

    NOAA Weather Radios range in cost from around $20 up to $100 or more depending on the quality of the receiver and number of features. 


  12. What types of NOAA Weather Radio receivers are available?

    NOAA Weather Radio receivers come in many sizes with a variety of functions.  There are both handheld and desktop models.  Many radios can receive an alarm tone, triggered when the NWS issues severe weather announcements or emergency information. Most NWR receivers are either battery-operated portables or AC-powered desktop models with battery backup, so they can be used in many different situations.  Some of the newer models are programmable (called S.A.M.E.-capable), allowing you to program the radio with your counties of concern.  Some CB radios, scanners, short wave and AM/FM radios are also capable of receiving NWR transmissions, although few of these can tone alert you for warnings.  


  13. What features should I look for in a NOAA Weather Radio?

    There are several features to look for in a NOAA Weather Radio. 

    • Tone-alert (very important). This allows you to have the radio in a standby mode, listening for a special tone that is broadcast before watch and warning messages. During an emergency, National Weather Service forecasters will interrupt routine radio programming and send out a special tone that activates the NOAA Weather Radios in the listening area.
    • Battery backup (very important). Needed in case electrical service is interrupted. 
    • All seven frequencies (very important): The radio should be tunable or switchable to all seven NWR frequencies. Some older models receive only three frequencies which will not work in all locations.
    • S.A.M.E. programmable (recommended).  The new generation of NWR receivers allows you to pre-select the types of alerts you want to receive and most importantly, the counties you want to be alerted for.  This will alleviate the aggravation of being woken in the middle of the night for a warning for a county on the other side of the listening area.  
    • AC Adapter (nice to have). Saves you money on batteries.
    • Plug for accessories (if needed): If you want to add an external speaker, strobe light, or pillow shaker.

  14. Where can I get radios and accessories for the hearing/visually impaired?

    Check with electronics stores, electronics catalogs or conduct an Internet search for retailers. 


  15. I just purchased a NOAA Weather Radio with the SAME feature -- where can I get the codes I need to program my receiver?

    A table and map of counties with the corresponding FIPS codes for Eastern Iowa, Northwest Illinois and far northeast Missouri are available on this web page.  The national NOAA Weather Radio web site offers a list of the SAME codes for all U.S. states and surrounding territories. A toll-free number (1-888-NWR-SAME or 1-888-697-7263) is also available so that radio owners can get the SAME codes.  


  16. I live in one county and work in another -- will the SAME programmable NOAA Weather Radio receivers be able to alert me for more than one county?

    Most SAME-capable NOAA Weather Radio receivers allow programming for multiple counties.  Check the receiver for this capability before you buy.  


  17. I just plugged in my radio but all I get is static.  What's wrong?

      Check these things:
    • Is your radio powered on?  (You should at least hear static.)
    • Are you within 40 miles of a transmitter?  (Check the national list.)
    • Are you on the correct frequency?  (Check the national list.)
    • If you are within range but the signal is too weak, you might need an external antenna.

  18. How can I be sure my radio's tone-alert feature is working properly?

    Every Wednesday, all NOAA Weather Radio stations issue a test tone-alert between 11 am and noon.  (In case of severe weather, the test is postponed until the next non-severe weather day.)  During the test, properly set up tone alert and SAME-capable radios will turn on, just as if a warning had been issued.  If you do not receive a test tone alert every Wednesday, you should check your radio set up and programming.  (Note that there are a few tone alert radios that may not be capable of receiving the test.  Check with your radio's retailer or manufacturer.)


  19. I was receiving alerts before, but have not received any lately.  I still get the broadcasts, though.  What should I do?

    Listen for the tone-alert test on Wednesdays between 11am and noon. If you are not getting the test, and you do not have a programmable radio, your radio might be broken.  If you have a programmable radio, you might be able to fix it by completely erasing your memory settings and starting over.  This can be done by unplugging the radio and removing the battery for a day or two.  


  20. The broadcast quality in my area is poor.  What can I do to improve reception?

    Attach your radio to an external antenna.  This will often improve reception inside buildings and in areas farther from the  transmitter. 


  21. My NOAA Weather Radio often turns on when the forecast office issues watches and warnings that don't impact me. What can I do about that?

    Upgrade to a S.A.M.E. programmable weather radio.  This allows you to specify exactly which counties are of concern to you.  Find out more about this technology. 


  22. I have trouble understanding the voice sometimes.  Can you do anything to improve it?

    Yes, but not today.  The NWS has a voice improvement program already underway. This program will replace the current computerized voice with a new, much improved, concatenated computer voice that will be much more understandable.  


  23. Why is the name of my town mispronounced on the weather radio?

    The computer has to be told how to say each and every word.  If you hear a word or place name being pronounced incorrectly, please drop a note to our webmaster.  We can make adjustments to try to improve the pronunciation.


  24. I live in an area where I can't get NOAA Weather Radio transmissions. Is there another system in place for me to get forecasts, watches and warnings directly from the National Weather Service?

    The National Weather Service works in partnership with media outlets across the country to get the most current and accurate weather information to the public. Tune in to your local radio and television stations for the latest weather forecasts, watches and warnings. NWS products and services are also available on the National Weather Service Internet site which also includes links to individual forecast offices. Delivery of data across the Internet, however, cannot be guaranteed because of potential interruption of service.

    Another low-cost method for receiving National Weather Service's (NWS) essential information in now available on a wireless data system. Called the Emergency Managers Weather Information Network, or EMWIN, this system presents the information directly on your home or office computer in an user-friendly graphics display. Simple mouse clicks immediately retrieve the latest weather and flood warnings, watches, forecasts, statements, observations and other data in text format, along with a sub-set of weather graphics including the national radar summary, and some satellite imagery. In all, over 6500 products are available. Users may set various alarms to be alerted to particular information, whether for their local area or from adjacent areas.

    The EMWIN weather information is free; the only cost is for the receiving equipment and inexpensive commercial software. This digital datastream is available nationwide directly from several satellites and, in an increasing number of locations, in an easier and less costly manner using local radio re-broadcasts and other techniques. This approach provides the necessary redundancy for reliable data reception by a wide variety of users.

    EMWIN was designed to be a low-speed (currently 1200 bits per second, but expected to increase), low-cost alternative for emergency management officials and others that have no access to weather data or have few resources to afford such data. (Even at this current low speed, over 5000 pages of information can be received each day). It was not designed, however, to replicate such other existing weather dissemination systems as NOAA Weather Radio (NWR).

    For more information about EMWIN, visit the EMWIN web site.


  25. How can I help my community get NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts?

    The goals of the National Weather Service and emergency preparedness agencies is to expand the reach of weather radio broadcasts to cover 95 percent of the U.S. population. Innovative partnerships between the NWS, private industry, and state and local governments are fueling this expansion. You can help foster such partnerships in your community. For more information on what may be going on in your community, contact your local emergency manager.


  26. I tried listening to the Macomb NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts online, but the audio was broken up.  What's wrong?

    Your internet connection speed or computer speed may be too slow. 


  27. Are other NOAA Weather Radio stations broadcasting live over the internet?

    Yes, a few. Check the national listing.


  28. When will weather radio broadcasts from  (mytown) be available over the internet?

    The number of stations carried live on the Internet has thus far been limited to sites with sufficient computer capacity to support the additional information load, and commercial sites who rebroadcast the program. The NWS is exploring cost-effective methods of providing a source for central access of this information. 

    In the meantime, if you or someone you know would be interested in working with us to get your local Weather Radio station broadcast live on the internet, please contact our webmaster at w-dvn.webmaster@noaa.gov

 


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