NOAA Weather Radio: The ‘indoor tornado siren’

Published: Jul. 11, 2023 at 10:23 AM CDT|Updated: Jul. 11, 2023 at 1:26 PM CDT
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QUAD CITIES, Iowa/Ill. (KWQC) - Outdoor warning sirens, the sound many listen for when severe weather is barreling down.

It is just one way to receive important severe weather and emergency alerts, but it is not necessarily the most reliable way.

Outdoor warning sirens. the sound many listen for when severe weather is barreling down. It’s one way to receive important severe weather alerts, but it’s not necessarily the most *reliable way.

Bruce Jones is a meteorologist with Midland Radio Corporation.

“NOAA Weather Radio was designed to be an indoor tornado siren, so it has battery backup. It’ll work even if your city electricity fails,” said Jones.

NOAA Weather Radios were first created in the 1950s, but weren’t made available nationwide until 1967.

“It’s an indoor tornado siren. It goes off automatically. And it goes off faster than your cell phone. It goes off faster than your outdoor sirens,” said Jones.

They became popularized in the mid 1970s, after President Gerald Ford designated NOAA Weather Radio as the official federal warning system.

“And the reason he did that was because one year prior to that, we had the tremendous super tornado outbreak of April 3, 1974. That tornado outbreak actually started right around the quad cities with some of the first tornadoes of the day. It ended up being a brutal assault of more than 100 tornadoes in a 24 hour period,” said Jones.

The weather radio will go off any time a tornado or severe thunderstorm watch or warning is issued for the location you program.

“And you program that one for just your county, and you leave it alone. You don’t touch it, you don’t do anything. It silently monitors the broadcast and works just like a smoke detector. If the national weather service needs to alert you, that desktop radio is going to go off, automatically,” said Jones.

While the desktop radio is considered the “gold standard”, emergency crank radios are also useful.

“An emergency crank radio is great when you have an ice storm, when you have a hurricane, when power’s gonna be out for days or weeks, because you can crank and generate your own electricity with an emergency crank radio, which includes recharging your smart phone,” said Jones.

Weather radios can be set up to alert you about 60 different weather hazards and emergencies, if you choose.

“The National Weather Service averages maybe an 11, 12, 13 minutes lead time on their tornado warnings. But that lead time is worthless if you don’t receive the warning,” said Jones.

When the weather radio goes off, you can count on KWQC-TV6 to be on-air, bringing you the latest potentially life-saving severe weather information.

You can purchase a weather radio at our local hardware or grocery store.

You can also purchase one online. If you need guidance programming your radio, you can find videos on Midland’s website.