Think twice before buying a weather radio!

The title of this blog post got your attention, didn’t it? In my 13 years as a Meteorologist, I’ve always believed everyone should have a weather radio in their home, much like everyone should have working smoke detectors.

NOAA Weather Radios have come a long way! Back in the 1980s they became popular for those who wanted to get weather information in real-time. Batteries allowed operation even when the power went out. The problem was someone had to push a button to turn the radio on and then wait for the most important information.

In the 1990s, there were significant improvements to NOAA Weather Radios with the advent of automatic alert tones. This meant that people who weren’t paying attention to the weather could be alerted to rapidly changing weather.

By the 2000s, NOAA Weather Radios got even smarter as one could pre-program your specific location into the radio so it wouldn’t sound an alarm for storms dozens of miles away. This allowed the right people to get the right warning at the right time.

But you may not need a new one.

Imagine taking your family on a road trip this summer. Perhaps you’re on your way across Iowa when the skies turn dark. You wonder if there are any weather warnings and turn on local radio. But if you’re not paying attention to every sign, you may not know what county you’re in or if you are in a warning or not.

Unfortunately, several people were killed on Interstate 44 near Joplin Missouri just about a year ago because they drove into the obscured tornado.

But what if there was a way to be alerted wherever you are? New wireless smart phone technology will allow your cell phone to become a smart weather radio! By utilizing the phone’s GPS signal, a new program developed by the wireless industry, the FCC, and FEMA will send out an alert tone with important information during dangerous weather, AMBER Alerts, and Presidential Alerts during national emergencies.

The program begins next month and is offered by all wireless carriers for free.

The technology that will send alert tones will not be able to utilize the National Weather Service’s polygon warning system. It will send alert tones to any telephone in any county affected by a weather warning, regardless of whether the phone is specifically within the polygon warning.

Another caveat is this technology is not available on all cell phones. Click on the following links to see if your cell phone is capable to download the new program.

Cricket Wireless
U.S. Cellular
Verizon Wireless

If you don’t have a phone capable for WEA (Wireless Emergency Alerts), there are other ways to get notified. The stand-by NOAA Weather Radio might still be right for you. As always when severe weather threatens, we are here for you 24/7 online, on the air, on the radio, and are the only station with live, automatic weather alerts on Facebook and Twitter.

One great way to remain connected is with our WREX Text Alerts. We have two programs you can utilize. Learn more about our program and how to sign up by clicking here. -ES



Posted under safety, technology, weather

This post was written by qni_it on May 18, 2012

4 Comments so far

  1. Justin May 18, 2012 1:30 PM

    This is awesome! Just a week or two ago I was looking around quite a bit trying to find out if there are any smartphone apps that can take the place of a weather radio, mine’s on its last leg. Good info, thanks for sharing

  2. Terri May 26, 2012 8:31 PM

    I know they have come out with this program for the smart phones for you to download to alert you in bad weather. But all in all having a weather NOAA alert handheld radio is still one of the best safety items to have with you. You can take it with you while traveling and it will pick up the location of the hazardous weather for that area. You can view these weather radios along with other weather instruments at

  3. jaxon jesse November 2, 2017 5:16 AM

    I am eagerly waiting for this apps. I have a weather station radio at my house. But, this device is heavy and doesn’t carry with yourself when we are traveling. The cell phone apps for weather radio purposes, which is being invented by NOAA is excellent. I definitely try for this and downloading from the above link.

  4. shah November 23, 2018 1:06 AM

    It does appear that the American’s *need* their half-price televisions. Certainly not worthy of lining up in a crowd or getting in a physical fight over one…

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