The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

March 6, 2012

Weather radios vital for storm preparedness

By Lora Scripps

— During the April 27 tornado outbreaks and severe weather affecting the county thereafter, the Limestone County Emergency Management Agency urged residents not to rely solely on outdoor warning sirens.

Sirens across the county were damaged during the storms and power went out to TVA sirens that did not have backup.

Officials asked that residents monitor their National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radios for warnings.

EMA workers believe one of the best ways to alert residents of severe weather and emergencies is a NOAA Weather radio. During an emergency, it might be several days before vital services are restored. NOAA alert weather radios activate to provide immediate information about life-threatening events, giving extra time to prepare and evacuate if necessary. Alerts are sent to tell people they need to take immediate action to protect themselves and their families.

The radio service transmits weather warnings and forecasts 24 hours a day.

Limestone County EMA officer Eddie Gilbert said since April 27 several people have visited the EMA to get radios. Grants made the weather radios available for lower income families in Limestone County.

Gilbert said families have to fill out a form showing proof of income to be eligible. He was unsure how many people have received weather radios during the past few months. “Some days two or three people come in,” he said. “Some days more or less.”

Daphne Ellison of the Emergency Management Agency said more than 350 residents have received radios since 2009.

“A weather alert radio may save your life by letting you know that severe weather is coming. This may allow you precious time to take cover and protect you and your family,” said Ellison.

Those looking for a weather radio can purchase receivers at a number of retail outlets including electronics, department, sporting goods and boat and marine accessory stores and their catalogs. They can also be purchased via the Internet from online retailers or directly from manufacturers.

As a means of raising public awareness about the ever-changing conditions in Alabama, Gov. Robert Bentley recently proclaimed Feb. 19-24 as Severe Weather Awareness Week.

Each day focused on a different threat. Monday focused on the threat of severe thunderstorms and Tuesday focused on the dangers of lightning. Wednesday highlighted tornado preparedness, while Thursday focused on the threats of flooding/flash flooding. Friday highlighted the needs of NOAA Weather Radios in homes and other indoor spaces where people need warnings.

Bentley also proposed a once-a-year sales tax holiday on weather radios, flashlights, generators and other supplies needed to help prepare for weather disasters, though a bill has not been introduced in the Legislature.

“The key is readiness,” Bentley said. “When storms strike, it’s too late to prepare. Let’s prepare now.”