Special radio will help 'weather' an emergency

Posted: Monday, May 02, 2005

What is the best disaster preparedness tool you can have? Is it your first aid kit or fire extinguisher? No. It's information.

Being informed and knowing where to get instant, reliable information about weather and other hazards can be your most important tool when it comes to being prepared to face disaster.

That's why you are encouraged to consider keeping a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio at home, in your office or in your car.

NOAA uses a nationwide network of radio stations to broadcast National Weather Service warnings, watches, forecasts and other important hazard information every day, around the clock.

The broadcasts also may include Amber Alerts — broadcasts regarding child abductions. The network has more than 900 transmitters that reach all 50 states, adjacent coastal waters, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The information you hear on the weather radio is the same information that meteorologists and emergency personnel use in emergency situations.

Some weather radios are equipped with a special alarm to alert you to life-threatening situations. The seconds or minutes you save with such timely reports could save your life and property.

Hearing- and visually-impaired households can connect the weather radio to other devices like lights, text printers and vibrating devices so warnings aren't missed.

The NOAA Weather Radio broadcast frequencies for the Kenai Peninsula are — for Homer: 162.400; for Seward: 162.550; for Soldotna: 162.475; and for Ninilchik: 162.550.

The broadcast range is approximately 40 miles, depending on the landscape and quality of your receiver.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough will participate in a test for a new all-hazard warning system called Haz-Collect. The new system will enable local emergency responders and officials to activate the National Weather Radio system and disseminate information about non-weather emergencies such as hazardous materials releases and wildland fires.

Haz-Collect is scheduled to be rolled out by the National Weather Service in December.

You can usually find a weather radio at most electronics stores. They come in different sizes and can cost from about $25 to $100 or more. Some CB radios, scanners, short wave and AM and FM radios also are capable of receiving these transmissions.

If you're shopping for a weather radio, look for one that is either battery powered or has battery backup. The radio also should have the alarm feature to signal you of watches or warnings.

Once NOAA has issued an advisory, watch or warning for your area, listen for further instructions.

An advisory means there are conditions which may cause significant inconvenience, a watch means the event is possible and a warning means the emergency is imminent or occurring

If officials advise you to evacuate, leave immediately. Listen for the official evacuation site in your area and take your 72-hour disaster kit with you.

Remember, a one-person 72-hour kit should include a three-day supply of water — one gallon per day — non-perishable food, a change of clothes and appropriate shoes or boots —depending upon the weather — a blanket or sleeping bag, a first aid kit, any prescriptions you need, glasses if you wear contact lenses, a battery-powered radio with batteries, a flashlight with batteries, a set of your keys, cash, identification and special items for infants or other family members who have with special needs.

If no evacuation order is issued, keep listening to your radio for instructions and keep your 72-hour disaster kits handy.

The weather radio another great tool to help Kenai Peninsula residents build safer, stronger, better prepared communities.

Kimberly Lorentzen is the Kenai Peninsula Citizen Corps Coordinator at the borough's Office of Emergency Management. She can be reached at klorentzen@borough.kenai.ak.us.

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