NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) is a nationwide network of radio stations broadcasting continuous weather information direct from a nearby National Weather Service (NWS) office. NWR broadcasts forecasts, watches, and warnings issued by the NWS. NWR may also broadcast warning and post-event information at the request of local and/or state officials. Non-weather types of alerts might include natural (such as earthquake activity), environmental (such as chemical releases or oil spills), or AMBER alerts.
All of the NWS forecasts, watches, and warnings are issued through the NWS office in Chanhassen. The NWS maintains over 900 transmitter sites across the nation, with a range of approximately 40 miles from the transmitter site. The effective range depends on terrain, quality of the receiver, and type of antenna. The NWR transmitter serving Steele County is located in Janesville, transmitting on a frequency of 162.400 MHz. Other nearby NWR transmitter sites are located in Minneapolis (162.550 MHz) and Rochester (162.475 MHZ).
Steele County Emergency Management recommends each home and business should have an “All Hazards Alert Radio”. This type of radio can trigger an alarm tone and/or indicator based on signals received from the NWS.
NOAA Weather Radio receivers are available in many sizes and with a variety of functions and price. Information for the general consumer is available from the NWS Consumer Information. The key features to consider are:
The best radio choice operates on household AC with a battery back-up. Utilzing household AC for power reduces the need to replace batteries. The battery back-up feature ensures the radio will continue to operate if the household power fails.
The best radio choice is an “alert radio”. Some radios are simple receivers that do not respond to the alert signals from the NWS. A radio with an alert tone will remain silent until the NWS transmits an alert signal. When an alert signal is received, the radio will produce an audible or visual signal, and then turn on so you can listen to the emergency message.
S.A.M.E. Localized Reception
The best radio choice includes Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME). SAME is a feature that allows your alert radio to produce alarm tones for areas of interest to you. Radios without the SAME capability alert for emergencies will activate an alarm tone anywhere within the coverage area of the NWR transmitter. This will result in alarm tones being activated, even though the emergency could be well away from the listener.
Radios with the SAME feature can be programmed to ignore alerts to certain counties while activating for others. For Steele County, the listener may want to program alerts for the counties of Steele, Waseca, Rice, Mower, Le Sueur, Freeborn, and Dodge. Once programmed, the radio would ignore other counties, such as Blue Earth. By limiting the number of counties you are alerted to, you will not ignore the alarm tone.
Radios equipped with the SAME feature will need to be programmed for the counties of interest. The instructions for programming the codes will be in the instruction manual for the radio. The six-digit code for Steele County and surrounding counties are:
027147 – Steele County
027039 – Dodge County
027047 – Freeborn County
027043 – Faribault County
027079 – Le Sueur County
027099 – Mower County
027131 – Rice County
027161 – Waseca County
Additional information from the National Weather Service includes:
- Specific Area Message Encoding
- Using NWR SAME
- SAME codes across the country
Finally, remember the different types of alerts:
- A WARNING is an event that alone poses a significant threat to public safety and/or property, probability of occurrence and location is high, and the onset time is relatively short.
- A WATCH meets the classification of a warning, but either the onset time, probability of occurrence, or location is uncertain.
- An EMERGENCY is an event that, by itself, would not kill or injure or do property damage, but indirectly may cause other things to happen that result in a hazard. For example, a major power or telephone loss in a large city alone is not a direct hazard, but disruption to other critical services could create a variety of conditions that could directly threaten public safety.
- A STATEMENT is a message containing follow up information to a warning, watch, or emergency.
Please contact Steele County Emergency Management if you need assistance programming a NOAA All Hazards Radio for your home or business.