Hi. My name is Jon Carney and I'm the NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) Focal Point at the St. Louis, Missouri National Weather Service Office. This page is dedicated to NWR Frequently Asked Questions.
Here's a list of questions I've been asked most frequently over the years and my responses to them. I will update this page occasionally to add more questions and answers. If you have a question that isn't addressed here pertaining to NOAA Weather Radio, please do not hesitate to drop me an email.
Here are a few other links to helpful NWR sites:
- Where can I purchase an NWR receiver?
- Can you recommend an NWR receiver?
- Where can I find the SAME codes to program into my receiver?
- I live in 'X' County. Which radio station should I tune my receiver to?
- I have NWR receiver model number '123' manufactured by 'XYZ' and I can't figure out how to program it. Can you help me?
- I can't pick up any signal from NWR station 'ABC'. How come?
- What can I do to improve my NWR reception?
- How often do you test the NWR alert system?
- Why didn't I get the Routine Weekly Test (RWT)?
- A bad thunderstorm passed over my home/business the other day and I didn't get a warning. How come?
National Weather Service's NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards Home Page
National Weather Service's NOAA Weather Radio Frequently Asked Questions Page
National Weather Service's NOAA Weather Radio Receiver Page
1. Where can I purchase an NWR receiver?Answer--While National Weather Service staff prepare and produce Weather Radio broadcasts, NWS neither manufactures nor sells receivers. Receivers can be found at many retail outlets, including electronics stores, department stores, sporting goods, and boat and marine accessory stores and their catalogs. They can also be purchased via the Internet from online retailers or directly from manufacturers. A web search for 'NOAA Weather Radio' using any commercial search engine will provide you with many options for buying a receiver.
2. Can you recommend an NWR receiver?
Answer--Unfortunately, no I cannot. As a U.S. Government employee, I cannot give an official recommendation as it would be an endorsement for that particular manufacturer. Rest assured...all NWR receivers must undergo rigorous testing before they can be sold as a "Public Alert" device. I recommend that before you buy any NWR receiver, you make sure that it is Public Alert certified and/or bears this logo:
If you have a Public Alert certified NWR receiver, you can be sure you've got good equipment. For more information on the Public Alert certification program, check out the Consumer Electronics Association website. I will recommend that you purchase a receiver with Specific Message Encoding (SAME) technology. SAME receivers can be programmed so they only sound an alert when we issue a warning for your specific county. That way, if we issue a tornado warning in the middle of the night for a county other than your own, the radio won't wake you up!
3. Where can I find the SAME codes to program into my receiver?
Answer--Check out the county map on our main NWR page! There you will be able to 'hover' your mouse over the county where you live and get the SAME code, and the transmitter frequency that you want to program into your receiver.
4. I live in 'X' County. Which radio station should I tune my receiver to?
Answer--As in the previous FAQ, hover your cursor over the map on our main NWR page. On the pop-up window, you'll see your closest transmitter(s) call sign(s) and frequency. If two or more transmitters serve your county, try tuning your receiver to each one in turn, then choose the transmitter with the strongest signal and lock it into your receiver.
5. I have NWR receiver model number '123' manufactured by 'XYZ' and I can't figure out how to program it. Can you help me?
Answer--The short answer is 'No'. The long answer is 'Perhaps'. If you're having troubles programming your NWR receiver, the best thing to do is call the manufacturer's technical support number, or check their website for instructions. I am only one person, and I simply can't help everyone program their NWR receivers! If you've tried tech-support from your receiver's manufacturer, and you still can't figure it out, you can send me an email. I'll do my best to help you, but I can't promise anything!
6. I can't pick up any signal from NWR station 'ABC'. How come?
Answer--There are a variety of reasons why you may not be able to pick up a signal from one of our NWR transmitters. The most common reason is that you have placed your receiver somewhere in your home or business where the NWR signal cannot reach. NWR transmitters operate at either 500 or 1000 watts of power. This is very low power when compared to a large FM radio station that broadcasts at 50-100,000 watts. Try moving your receiver to an outside room...or near a window. Most receivers also have external antenna hookups. External antennas can be purchased at most local electronics shops. You can then set up the antenna outside the building and hook it up to your receiver.
Another common problem is caused by night time atmospheric inversions. Cold air settles near the surface on calm clear nights and this sets up a temperature inversion with warmer air aloft. This changes the density of the atmosphere which can block low powered radio signals. If your reception seems to fade in the early morning around sunrise, but returns after the day starts to warm up, it's probably because of an inversion.
We use telephone lines to carry the signal from our office in Weldon Spring Missouri to our transmitter sites around the area. Sometimes there are problems with those lines. There could also be a problem with the transmitter itself. We have automated monitoring systems that alert us to problems with the telephone lines or transmitters, so a call or email to our office is usually not necessary. If you notice the signal has been weak or is out for more than 24 hours, then feel free to email me, or call our office at 636-441-8467 to report the outage.
7. What can I do to improve my NWR reception?
Answer--First, make sure your receiver is locked onto the NWR station that serves your county. Use our map to make sure you have the correct frequency. Next, try moving your receiver to a room with outside walls or windows. Any metal in the walls of your home or business will block the NWR signal. If you simply cannot get a clear signal, connect your receiver to an external antenna. Most electronics stores will have antennas and the cables that will be required.
8. How often do you test the NWR alert system?Answer--The NWR alert system is tested every Wednesday around 11 AM. If there is severe weather in the area...the test may be cancelled. If a severe thunderstorm or tornado watch is in effect we will typically cancel the test for the week.
9. Why didn't I get the Routine Weekly Test (RWT)?
Answer--There are a number of reasons you may not have received the RWT. The most likely cause is that you have not programmed your receiver correctly, or the programming has been lost or changed without your knowledge. Use our map and double check that your receiver is tuned to a NWR transmitter which broadcasts warnings for your county. For instance, if you live in St. Louis County or City, your receiver must be tuned to NWR Station KDO-89 on 162.550MHz. Then, make sure you have programmed the correct SAME codes into your receiver. For instance, St. Louis County's SAME code is 029189 and St. Louis City's SAME code is 029510. Once you have done this, I recommend you turn off any automatic signal searching function your receiver has. That way, if there is an interruption to the broadcast, your receiver will not start searching around for other NWR stations to listen to. Don't forget to put batteries in your receiver so the programming doesn't get erased if you have a power outage.
Some receivers like the Midland Radio WR-100 do not sound an alert siren when we send an RWT. If this is the case, you should try to be in the same room with your receiver during the test and watch it closely. An amber light may turn on, and/or a 'TEST' message may scroll across the LCD on your receiver. The RWT is only valid for 15 minutes, so your receiver will only scroll the 'TEST' message or blink its lights for 15 minutes. Read your instruction manual carefully to find out how your receiver responds to the test. You can also call your manufacturer's tech-support number for further information.
As I mentioned in FAQ 8, we will cancel the test if there is severe weather in the area or a convective watch is in effect. If the watch didn't affect your county, and we didn't issue any warnings, your receiver may tell you to check reception or that it hasn't received any tests or warnings. Recheck the programming and try to monitor the next RWT to make sure your receiver is functioning properly.
10. A bad thunderstorm passed over my home/business the other day and I didn't get a warning. How come?
Answer--It's possible we didn't issue a warning! The National Weather Service issues warnings for severe thunderstorms using very specific criteria. Those criteria are:
1. 3/4 inch hail (the size of a penny)
2. winds of 60 mph or stronger
3. a tornado
If any of those criteria aren't met then the storm isn't 'severe' in our book, and therefore we won't issue a warning. Heavy rain, dark skies, and continuous lightning just aren't 'severe' to the National Weather Service. Severe thunderstorms can develop very quickly...and may strengthen before we can issue a warning. If you witness any of the above conditions during a thunderstorm, contact your local law enforcement agency and ask them to relay your report to us!
If you know a warning was issued for your location, and you know your radio didn't sound an alert, check out my answer to FAQ9...that should get you on the right path.