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What is SAME technology?

If you own or have ever shopped around for an emergency or weather radio, you may have heard the acronym S.A.M.E, or the term SAME. It's often thrown around in product descriptions and mentioned in marketing brochures for NOAA weather radios or even some consumer two way radios with weather channels and alerts. But what is SAME? What does this technology do? How does it work, and why is it considered such an important feature in a weather radio?

What is SAME?
SAME is an acronym for Specific Area Message Encoding. It is a digital protocol or code used to send a 1050 Hz warning alarm tone and encoded alert message for audible and/or visual reception on radios equipped to receive and decode such messages. It was originally developed by the National Weather Service in the late 1980's and was eventually adopted by the Federal Communications Commission in 1997 as part of the EAS (Emergency Alert System). Today the SAME protocol is used in both the United States and Canada as a standard component of national emergency weather alert broadcasts in these countries. It is used as part of the NWR All Hazards Alert network of weather radio stations that broadcast weather and other emergency information across the United States.

How SAME works
A SAME alert message includes a digital header with a SAME code designating the type of alert being sent and the affected area (or county) to which it is being sent. A radio equipped with SAME technology receives the code, decodes it, activates a 1050Hz warning tone to get the attention of the listener, and proceeds to activate and/or display the message being broadcast.

The NWS emergency broadcast transmitters typically cover about a 40 mile radius, although coverage may be considerably less in more remote or mountainous areas. Each area or county in the NWR network is assigned a six digit SAME code unique to that specific area. To receive warnings and alerts for a designated area or county, the proper SAME code must be programmed into the radio. Some radios may allow the user to program multiple SAME codes to allow the radio to receive warnings and alerts for more than one area. This can be quite a handy feature, especially when traveling to other areas outside your primary location.

Once the SAME code for a specific area is programmed into the radio, an emergency or alert broadcast from an NWS office with that code can activate the SAME receiver and transmit the alert message through the radio.

Why SAME is important
There are many radios on the market today equipped with weather channels and alerts, and that's a good thing. Whether you're indoors or out, you need to stay informed of changing weather conditions, especially when things become potentially hazardous.

It isn't just weather, either. Other emergency situations can arise, and you need to be alerted to them, as well. In such situations, an emergency radio isn't just handy, it can potentially become a lifesaver.

However, every emergency situation or alert does not affect everyone, and a sweeping radio broadcast over a broader area may not even apply to yours. Just because you hear the message doesn't mean it is intended specifically for you. But how can you know?

That is where SAME technology comes in. With a specific code designated for a specific area, SAME aims specific alerts directly to their intended audience. Those 3 AM weather and other emergency alerts intended for your area can wake you, keep you informed and at the ready, while alarms and alerts intended for other areas won't interrupt, annoy or disturb you.

Of course, to program the SAME radio, it is necessary to know the correct code for your area. It's easy. All you need to do is visit the NWS NOAA web site and look it up. You can search for County Coverage Listings by State or download a complete list of same codes for all states and counties in simple text.

Weather Radios with SAME
Here is a chart of popular radios equipped with SAME technology:

Make/Model Type Band SAME Two Way
Motorola MWR839 AM/FM
Weather Alert Radio
base station AM/FM/Weather YES No
Midland WR-300
Weather Radio
base station AM/FM/Weather YES No
Midland WR-120
Weather Radio
base station Weather YES No
Midland HH54VP SAME
Handheld Weather Radio
handheld Weather YES No
Midland HH54VP2 SAME
Handheld Weather Radio
handheld Weather YES No
Cobra MR-HH450 DUAL
Marine and GMRS Radio
handheld GMRS/VHF Marine YES YES
Garmin Rino 655t
Two Way Radio w/ GPS
handheld FRS/GMRS/Weather YES YES
Garmin Rino 650
Two Way Radio w/ GPS
handheld FRS/GMRS/Weather YES YES
Uniden BCT15X
Beartracker Scanner
base/mobile Multiple YES No
Cobra Marine MR-F80B-D
Submersible VHF Radio
fixed mount VHF Marine YES YES
Uniden Oceanus D UM415
Submersible VHF Marine Radio
fixed mount VHF Marine YES YES
Uniden Solara D UM380
VHF Marine Radio
fixed mount VHF Marine YES YES

Want a more in-depth discussion about weather radios, including those with SAME technology? Listen to The Two Way Radio Show Podcast episode TWRS-13 - Emergency and Weather Radios.

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