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Your Complete NOAA Weather Radio Guide

Your home is where you want to feel safe. You keep your home and family safe with smoke detectors, carbon dioxide detectors, deadbolt locks, outdoor lights, security systems, and maybe even one of those new high-tech doorbells that you can control with your smartphone. But what about protecting your loved ones in the event of fast-moving hazardous weather or civil emergencies? One of the most reliable ways to stay informed – instantly and accurately – is with an NOAA weather radio.

NOAA Weather Radio Complete Guide

These radios provide you and your family with vital around-the-clock information automatically and instantly. Cell towers and networks can be vulnerable and unreliable. Service disruption and power loss across your phone, TV, and internet are common due to severe weather, mechanical failure, power outages, and even solar flares.

There is one thing certain about the weather it’s powerfully unpredictable. A weather alert radio with a backup power source is your best option for instant access to information that could save your life or the life of someone you love.

NOAA Weather Radios Save Lives

Damage after the F-3 tornado in Evansville, IN November 2005 — Image by Leif Skoogfors of FEMA via Wikimedia Commons

In 2005, an F-3 tornado ripped through a mobile home community in Evansville, Indiana killing 25 people. Sleeping residents were unaware of the impending danger. One of the tornado’s victims that night was two-year-0ld C.J. Martin. His mother went on a mission to protect other families from the same heartache and painful loss. Her goal was to require manufactured housing manufactures to include weather alert radios in the home. In 2007, C.J.’s Home Protection Act became Indiana state law requiring all new and relocated manufactured homes in Indiana to install an NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards public alert radio. We believe that every home should have one of these radios as standard equipment — just like a smoke detector.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), “Recovery officials estimate an (NOAA) all hazards weather radio may provide as much as eight minutes to move family and pets to a specially constructed safe room or at least a secure location in their home.”

Minutes and seconds matter when faced with extreme weather or crisis. Early warnings are your family’s best protection.

Your Complete NOAA Weather Radio Guide

We pride ourselves on providing communication solutions for every adventure. We also provide emergency preparedness solutions for every home and family. In fact, three of our radios were recognized as 2018’s Best Emergency Radios. By providing a variety of weather alert radios, we have you covered at home, the office, campsite, RV, on the jeep trail, and everywhere in between.

Types of NOAA Weather Radios

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radios use a special receiver to tune into National Weather Service (NWS) broadcasts 24/7. This alert system network is the single most immediate source for comprehensive weather and emergency information available to the public. NOAA weather radios broadcast warning and post-event information for a wide variety of hazards and emergencies. These radios provide you and your loved ones with instant access to the same weather reports and emergency information that meteorologists and emergency personnel use.

Weather Band Radio vs. Weather Alert Radio

While all weather radios use the NOAA Weather Radio Network, not all radios instantly warn you of potential danger. Weather band radios require being powered on and tuned into a local weather station to receive alerts. A weather alert radio automatically and instantly alerts you whether the device is on or not. When an alert is broadcasted, a weather alert radio will automatically override all other radio functions temporarily switch to the NOAA channel and broadcast warnings, alerts, and post-event information.

While the NOAA is a scientific agency within the U.S. government and does not manufacture their own radios. However, it does permit companies to use the NOAA logo on qualified radios capable of receiving the NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) emergency broadcast signal.  Weather alert radios with the agency logo have been tested and qualify to receive emergency broadcast signals and alerts.

When shopping for a weather radio, look for the two most important features:

  1. Designated weather alert radio
  2. The NOAA logo

All of Midland’s weather alert radios have the NOAA logo.

Desktop Radio

noaa weather radio

A desktop radio is one of the most common types of NOAA weather alert radios. They are perfect for your home and office. These radios maximize the information you receive by allowing you to customize your location and alert types. You can choose your type of alert from display, voice, or tone. Choose the “Display” alert and only a text alert will scroll on the display and no audible alarm with sound. If you choose the “Voice” alert, then the alert tone will sound for 8 seconds followed by the broadcast. If you select the “Tone” alert option, then the alert tone will sound for 3 minutes or until you press any button. Our radios feature an 85-decibel siren, but for the hearing impaired, you can use a visual alert system with our attachable strobe light.

The WR120 is a Midland classic and the most popular NOAA weather radio in North America! This radio is simple to set up and has 60 different programmable alerts.

BUY NOW: WR120

Another popular Midland weather alert radio is the WR400 Deluxe. This radio comes with all the bells and whistles. It features 80 different programmable alerts as well as a USB port for charging your devices.

BUY NOW: WR400

Both of these desktop radios are powered by an AC outlet with a battery backup power source, so you can stay informed even during a power outage.

Hand Crank Radio

noaa weather radio hand crank radio ER310

One of best additions to your emergency prep kit is a hand crank radio. They provide the same instant alerts as a desktop radio, but they are compact and portable. Our ER310 is our all-in-one must-have NOAA weather radio. It is multi-purpose the bright Cree LED flashlight, USB port for charging your mobile device, SOS flashlight beacon, and even an ultrasonic dog whistle. Our crank radios offer multiple power options: solar panel, hand crank, AA batteries, and a long-lasting rechargeable lithium-ion battery. You can quickly recharge the device when power is available and have the backup charging options when it’s not.

Don’t wait until disaster strikes. With an NOAA weather radio, you can stay informed 24 hours a day 7 days a week!

BUY NOW: ER310

Types of Alerts

Trying to understand the wide array of warnings, watches, advisories, and emergencies can be confusing. NOAA weather radios not only broadcast the National Weather Service (NWS) forecast but also the Emergency Alert System (EAS). These radios will alert you to severe weather, natural disasters, AMBER alerts, terrorist attacks, and technological accidents (i.e., chemical releases, oil spills, nuclear power plant emergencies).

All alerts are important and should be taken seriously, but not all alerts require immediate action.

noaa weather radio alert to hazardous weather, natural disasters, and civil emergencies

WATCH – Be Prepared…

A Watch is used when hazardous weather is possible and conditions are prime for severe weather to develop. This potential event (should it come to pass) poses a significant threat to the public but the exact details of the time, location, and probability of occurrence are uncertain. Even though immediate action is not necessary when a Watch is issued, it is important to be prepared because they can evolve into a Warning. Typically, Watches are issued many hours before the weather event begins. For example, in the morning you may be notified that a Winter Storm Watch is issued for later in the afternoon or evening.

This alert may not require immediate action but should be your first indicator to be prepared. Watch alerts are typically issued up to 8 hours in advance of hazardous weather and cover a large geographic region.

WARNING – Take Action!

A Warning alert is more urgent than a Watch alert. This is an event that poses a significant threat to public safety and property and requires immediate action. Warnings are used for events that are either already occurring or imminent. This type of alert signals you to take immediate protective measures. Depending on the type of emergency, you may only have minutes to react and seek shelter.

A Warning covers smaller geographic areas than a Watch alert. All Warning alerts should be considered urgent — even if you cannot see the danger seek immediate shelter.

ADVISORY – Stay Aware

Advisories are virtually Warnings for less severe weather events. These events are typically a public inconvenience and can cause travel hazards. For example, you may be alerted to a Freezing Rain Advisory instead of an Ice Storm Warning. The hazard of ice and freezing rain are present but not severe enough to be considered an ice storm. Similar to Watch alerts, Advisories can change into a Warning.

EMERGENCY ALERTS & STATEMENTS – Be Informed

Emergency alerts arise from events that, by themselves, do not pose a threat of injury, death, or property damage. Instead, these are events that can indirectly cause other hazards. For example, a major power outage does not necessarily pose a threat but can lead to conditions that directly threaten public safety.

Statements are simply a follow-up message with information regarding the previously broadcasted warning, watch, or emergency.

Programmable Alerts

Our weather radios are enabled with over 60 to 80 selectable emergency alerts. You have the freedom to choose which alerts your receive — for the most part.

Below we have provided the lists of selectable alerts for two of our most popular NOAA weather radios. The items with an asterisk have a default setting and cannot be disabled per NOAA regulations.

S.A.M.E. Codes

Specific Area Message Encoding or S.A.M.E. is the National Weather Service’s way to direct their alerts to certain geographical areas. For example, if you live in Florida you more than likely do not need to be alerted of an avalanche warning in Colorado. By using this coding system, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Emergency Alert System (EAS) can notify individuals and communities of only the alerts that directly impact them — reducing unnecessary alarms. With approximately 650 NOAA weather stations around the country, it is necessary to link your weather alert radio to the appropriate station.

Although you may be able to tune into a National Weather Service (NWS) station to hear the weather does mean that station broadcasts warning and alerts. It is important to reference the NWS’s complete listing of S.A.M.E. codes for each county. This list of county S.A.M.E. codes will provide maps of alert areas helping you to choose the appropriate S.A.M.E. code for your radio.

How to Program Your NOAA Weather Radio

Although your radio is primarily powered by the A/C power from the outlet, make sure to install AA batteries in your radio. In the event of a power outage, you’ll want your NOAA weather radio to have a backup power source.

We have several models of weather alert radios, please reference your owner’s manual for detailed programing instructions. Below we have included a video on programming our classic weather radio — the WR120. We also include the quick-start instructions for our deluxe NOAA weather radio — the WR400

How to program your WR120

How to Program your WR400 Deluxe NOAA Weather Radio: Quick Start Instructions

Please see your Owner’s Manual for important controls and functions.

  1. Place 4 AA batteries (not included) into the compartment on the underside of the radio (Note: batteries are important because they provide emergency power for the radio in case of a power outage).
  2. Plug the AC adapter into a standard house outlet. Plug the other end of the adapter (micro USB) into the DC jack on the back of the radio.
  3. When powered on for the first time the WR400 will go into the setup menu.
    1. Set the language by pressing “ENTER.” Select your desired language by using the “UP” and “DOWN” arrows then press “ENTER” again.
    2. Set your location by pressing “ENTER.” You now have the option of choosing between “ANY,” “MULTIPLE,” and “SINGLE.” Press “ENTER” when you have reached your selection.6
    3. If “ANY” is selected you will be asked to input the time. If “MULTIPLE” or “SINGLE” are selected then you will be asked to input your specific location and the display will show “01 EMPTY.” Press “ENTER” to input your country. Once you have selected your country press “ENTER” again and you will be asked for your state. Select your state, then press “ENTER.” You will now have a list of counties to choose from. Select your county then press “ENTER.” If you selected “SINGLE” for your location then you will now be asked to input the time. If you selected “MULTIPLE” for your location you will be taken to the next county entry “02 EMPTY.” You now have the option of selecting “NEARBY.” This gives you the option of having the radio automatically populate your selected county entry with the next closest county code. If you want to manually enter your county then press the “UP” or “DOWN” arrows to select your country and repeat the steps necessary for selecting your county. Once you have programmed all of your desired counties press the “MENU” button toset the time.
    4. When “SET TIME” is displayed on the screen, press “ENTER” to set the time. The display will show “SETTING HOUR.” Press the “UP” or “DOWN” buttons to set the hour then press the “RIGHT” button to toggle to setting the minutes. After setting the minutes press “ENTER.”
    5. Now you will be asked to “SET CHANNEL.” Pull out the antenna and extend to its full length above the radio. Press “ENTER” and scroll to the desired channel using the “UP” or “DOWN” buttons. Find the channel for your area by visiting www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/coverage/station_listing.html and reviewing the corresponding frequency and channel for your area. Once you have selected your desired weather channel press “ENTER.”
    6. Your settings have now been saved and the radio is ready to use. You are now able to receive weather alerts.
  4. Press the “WEATHER/HAZARD” button to listen to the weather radio. Then use the volume wheel on the side of the radio to adjust the volume to the desired listening level.