As we near the end of this year's Hurricane Preparedness Week, we (as Weather Ready Nation Ambassadors) Get A Plan! ⚡
The fastest, most accurate and reliable means of receiving critical weather information at your school is through a NOAA Weather Radio with a "tone alert" feature. You will receive the warning directly from the National Weather Service in just a couple of minutes from its issuance. These radios can be purchased in electronic stores and generally cost between $40 and $80. When NWS issues a tornado warning, the "tone alert" (1050 Hertz) is instantly sounded followed by warning information.
In addition to the tone-alert, a digital burst of information is sent out. In some cases, such as a tornado warning, television and radio stations use this digital information for activation of the Emergency Alert System (EAS). You can now program special NWR receivers that use the digital burst to only warn you when weather is to affect your county. The National Weather Service refers to this digital burst as "Specific Area Message Encoding" (SAME).
The radio's "tone alert" feature and SAME is used for the issuance of all weather warnings as well as severe thunderstorm, flash flood, hurricane, and tornado watches. (See the appendix for Watch/Warning definitions). NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) broadcasts 24 hours a day, seven days a week with the latest weather information from daily forecasts to special weather statements about sudden shifts in the weather patterns or the development of potentially hazardous weather. (For more information on NWR see the appendix).
If you are not in a reliable NWR listening area (due to interference from mountains or other sources) and attaching your radio to an exterior antenna does not help, then below are some suggested alternatives -
- If you have cable television access, The Weather Channel uses NWS products and broadcasts warnings immediately upon receipt from NWS via a satellite link. Warnings are continuously scrolled across the bottom of the screen.
- Some cable companies include a channel with a local NWS radar display and use NOAA Weather Radio as a voice-over.
- Monitor your local news radio station for EAS messages and special statements from the National Weather Service. EAS operates on a cooperative agreement between broadcasters and federal, state, and local government agencies. EAS is activated for tornado warnings and severe flash flooding.
Phone "call-down" systems used in some counties are not advised for receipt of warning information due to
- time elapsed in relaying information,
- chance of incorrect or incomplete information being passed,
- lack of reliability of phone systems during storms, and
- the NWS advises people not to use telephones during an electrical storm.
- Learn about WEAs, too
Listen for the type of watch or warning and where it is in effect. The person(s) monitoring must know what action they should take based on this information. It is suggested you have a map nearby for easy reference to counties and towns to locate storms and their movement in reference to your school. There is no need to take emergency action if the warning is not for your location. It should, however, heighten your awareness to the potential for severe weather to affect your school district, especially if the warning is for a county near you and the storms are moving your way!
If your workplace or school has mobile or detached buildings that are not part of a public address or intercom system, then special arrangements must be made to notify these areas. Sending "runners" outside is not advisable due to the danger posed by lightning and the approaching storm. Wireless communication devices are an effective means for such communication. "Walkie-talkies" may be the least expensive.
Handicapped or learning-disabled may also require special attention. You may want someone to be assigned to each person requiring special attention to see that they move to the appropriate place of safety. Anyone in a position not to hear the warning must be taken into account.