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  • Weather Radio Buyer's Guide

    With all of the unpredictable weather we have been experiencing lately, particularly the destructive tornados from last week, we have been receiving an uptick in interest in our weather radios. We thought it might be helpful to put together a quick guide to make it a little easier for those shopping for their first weather radio.

    What Is A Weather Radio?
    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is a federal agency that, among other things, is tasked with monitoring the weather (through the National Weather Service). NOAA has transmitting stations spread throughout the United States that constantly broadcast the current weather conditions for the surrounding area. Each station transmits a message on one of seven VHF frequencies (162.400, 162.425, 162.450, 162.475, 162.500, 162.525, and 162.550). A looped recording is constantly played over these frequencies describing the current weather.

    A basic weather radio allows you to tune into these frequencies and instantly hear a weather report at any time. Very simple models are super easy to use, only requiring that you choose your local channel and press a button to start listening. Choosing a channel is often as simple as scrolling through stations 1-7 and listening for the one that is the clearest, but NOAA has a page on their web site that will allow you to find the station that is designated for your area.

    While a basic weather radio can be useful, a more advanced radio is really recommended.

    Proactive Alerts
    More advanced weather radios take things a step further, proactively alerting you when an emergency or dangerous weather situation occurs. When an emergency arises, a special tone is transmitted by the NOAA stations. Many weather radios can constantly monitor for these tones and turn themselves on when the tone is heard. This is critical, as it allows your weather radio to now alert you proactively to an emergency.

    One drawback of the weather radios that proactively alert is that a NOAA transmitting station covers a very large area, and you may find yourself being alerted to events that do not necessarily apply to your city or county. If this happens enough, you may find yourself paying less attention to the radio when it sounds an alert. The most advanced weather radios support "Specific Area Message Encoding," or SAME, which solves this problem. Weather radios using SAME technology allow you to enter a code that will focus the alerts on roughly a zip code sized area, ensuring that only warnings in your designated area will be alerted to you.

    Who Needs A Weather Radio?
    As a retailer, it is a little cliché to say that everyone needs our product. In the case of a weather radio, however, I offer no apologies. Year after year we see news stories about people who die in emergencies in which they just didn't have time to get to safety. Weather radios save lives year after year by waking people in the middle of the night or providing enough warning time for them to get to shelter. This is a product that sells for a range of $20-$60 that could make the all the difference in the world when an emergency occurs, so there is really no reason not to have one.

    Fortunately, it seems like weather radios are catching on in a big way. Local news channels have gotten the word out about the importance of having one and we see many businesses purchasing them to help keep their employees safe. Weather radios are also in use by almost all of the schools in the nation now, with the Midland WR-120 being the most popular model.

    What Is The Best Weather Radio?
    As with most products, the best weather radio really depends upon how you plan to use it and even how much you want to spend. Here I'll outline a few of our best sellers and give the pros and cons of each.

    Midland WR-120 Weather Radio - The Midland WR-120 is possibly the most popular weather radio in the world. It is a full featured desktop weather radio, supporting SAME technology and even allowing for the connection of (optional) external accessories such as a strobe light or antenna.

    Midland WR-400 Weather Radio - More advanced than the WR-120, the WR-400 also includes features such as an AM/FM radio, alarm clock, selectable alert settings, and color coded alert lights.

    Midland ER310 Emergency Hand Crank Weather Radio with Flashlight - This is a full featured portable combo weather radio and flashlight with multiple power options, AM/FM radio, SOS signaling in Morse Code, a built-in USB charging port and even a dog whistle to alert rescue animals. The ER210 is the base model.

    Midland XT-511 Emergency Crank Radio - This is more of an all-around emergency device than simply a weather radio. It can be powered by AC, DC, battery, or by crank. It has a flashlight, AM/FM radio, weather radio, GMRS two way radio and USB port. It would be nice to have during a power outage or on a camping trip. Does not support SAME.

    Midland HH50B Weather Radio - This is a very small and inexpensive hand held All Hazards Alert radio. Does not support SAME.

    Weather Radio Accessories
    Midland 18-STR Strobe Light - This accessory is made to go with your Midland Weather Radios. This strobe light will plug directly into many weather radio models, giving you a visual alert in case of an alert. This would be great if you had a family member with hearing problems or simply wanted to keep the volume on your weather radio at a minimum.

    Midland 18-259W Weather Antenna - This antenna is will help if you are in an area or in a building where it is difficult to receive a strong signal. Great for cars, vans, homes, boats, RVs, and is specially designed to use for steel buildings and manufactured homes with metallic siding or construction.

    Whether you live in a region with unpredictable weather or you just want to be prepared in an emergency situation, we here at www.BuyTwoWayRadios.com have the tools to keep you and your loved ones safe and prepared. If you have any questions about anything, please feel free to contact our sales staff at 1-800-584-1445!

  • It's Hurricane Season - Are You Ready?

    wea00418_caption.jpgToday is June 1, 2011. While today may seem to be of little significance to the average person, the first day of June is an important marker for folks along the Gulf coast and across the eastern seaboard of the United States. Today marks the official start of the 2011 hurricane season.

    According to The National Weather Service, NOAA predicts an above-average season for hurricanes in 2011, forecasting 12 to 18 named storms with winds 39mph or higher, six to ten of which could become hurricanes with winds 74mph or higher. Of those, NOAA predicts between three and six could become major category 3,4, or 5 storms.

    NOAA also predicts each of these ranges has a 70% likelihood, but does not predict when or where any of the storms will hit. "The tornadoes that devastated the South and the large amount of flooding we've seen this spring should serve as a reminder that disasters can happen anytime and anywhere", FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate was quoted as saying on NOAA's web site. "As we move into this hurricane season it's important to remember that FEMA is just part of an emergency management team that includes the entire federal family, state, local and tribal governments, the private sector and most importantly the public," Fugate said.

    The uncertainty is all the more reason to be prepared. To help everyone get ready, NOAA prepared a series of audio and video public service announcements to educate the public. They are available in English and Spanish at http://www.hurricanes.gov/prepare.

    Communication is a key component in the preparation for any weather event. Staying on top of ever changing weather conditions before and during a hurricane can mean the difference between life and death. NOAA does a great job of providing up to date, localized weather alerts to keep everyone informed and ready for weather emergencies. However, they can only send out the warnings. It is still up to the public to receive them, hear the warnings and heed instructions. Fortunately, there is an easy and inexpensive way to stay tuned in. Emergency weather radios.

    Emergency radios come in a number of types and packages. They are easy to set up and easy to use. They are also inexpensive, some as economical as the cost of bottled water and some batteries. For instance, the Midland HH-50 Pocket Weather Alert Radio is a small, pocket-sized device that fits in the palm of your hand and is capable of receiving all hazard alerts from the National Weather Service as well as other emergency alerts, such as amber alerts, nuclear power plant warnings, biological hazard warnings and civil emergency messages and warnings - and it costs less than $20.

    The Midland HH54VP Portable Emergency Weather Alert Radio is a handheld radio with S.A.M.E. technology, a system that allows you to program the radio for emergency alerts in specific or localized areas. The HH54VP features an alarm clock with snooze, a large, backlit display with continuous backlighting option, battery backup, user selectable alerts and color coded alert indicators.

    Desktop models include the Midland WR-120 and WR-300 weather radios. Also featuring S.A.M.E. technology, these radios sound an alarm when NOAA activates the emergency alert system and are designed to wake you up in case of a weather emergency such as a tornado, where every second counts. These units can be programmed to receive alerts for multiple areas and feature battery backup systems so you can stay informed of emergency weather conditions even if you lose power.

    Perhaps the most versatile of all these emergency radios is the Midland XT511 Base Camp Two Way/Emergency Crank Radio. It is a combination FRS/GMRS two way radio with NOAA weather alerts, AM/FM receiver, alarm clock and three LED flashlight all built in. The feature set is quite useful, but the real versatility is in the power options. It runs on AC, AA batteries, is rechargeable, and can be powered and recharged with a built-in hand crank. It even includes a USB port so you can charge your cell phone with it. The Midland XT511 is definitely a handy radio to have, especially when the power goes out.

    No doubt a good radio is indispensable in any weather emergency such as a hurricane. Of course, it's not the only thing you need, but it is an important item to have in your kit as part of your emergency preparedness plan.

    May 22-28, 2011 was National Hurricane Preparedness Week. While that week has ended, the true deadline for preparedness is the moment a hurricane hits your area. Don't wait until the warnings are issued to get ready. Prepare now.

    For more information on emergency weather radios, listen to The Two Way Radio Show Episode 13 - Emergency and Weather Radios.

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