Using an NOAA Weather Radio

Information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

What is an NOAA Weather Radio?

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Radio (NWR) broadcasts National Weather Service (NWS) warnings, watches, forecasts and other hazard information 24 hours a day.

The NWR is the prime alerting and critical information delivery system of the NWS. Known as the "voice of the National Weather Service", NWR is provided as a public service.

Weather radios equipped with a special alarm tone feature can sound an alert and give you immediate information about a life-threatening situation.

During an emergency, routine weather radio programming will be interrupted to send out the special tone that activates weather radios in the listening area. The hearing- and visually-impaired also can get these warnings by connecting weather radios with alarm tones to other kinds of attention- getting devices like strobe lights, pagers, bed-shakers, personal computers and text printers.

How much does a radio cost?
There are three main types of weather radios:

  1. Scanner/Marine Radio/Basic Weather Radio - monitor only (all National Weather Service warnings), no alarm
  2. Tone Alert Weather Radio - automatically activated when a 1050Hz tone is issued for any of the counties in broadcast range; cost range $20-50
  3. Specific Area Message Encoder (SAME) - automatically activated for only the counties you choose; cost range $40-70 (more advanced models may cost up to $200)

What features should I look for in an NOAA Weather Radio?
There are several features to look for in an NOAA Weather Radio. The most desirable feature is an alarm tone.

A new generation of NWR receiver allows you to pre-select the National Weather Service alerts you want to receive according to local geographic areas (counties or in some cases portions of counties). Look for NWR receivers with the SAME feature (Specific Area Message Encoding) which means the receiver is capable of turning itself on from a silent mode when the digital code is broadcast before the alarm tone is sounded for the geographic area you have pre-selected.

In addition, a good receiver should be able to operate on batteries during times when electrical services may be interrupted. Look for radios with an AC adapter and battery compartment. The radio should be tunable or switchable to all seven NWR frequencies. Some older models receive only three frequencies which will not work in all locations.

What is my local station?
The NWR network has more than 900 stations in the 50 states and near adjacent coastal waters, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and U.S. Pacific Territories.

Click here to find your local NWR station.

Updated: 5/2009