Yet another reason why you need a weather radio

Photo by Raychel Sanner via Unsplash

by Jock Elliott

Today is the 154th birthday of the National Weather Service. The NWS covers from American Samoa to the Virgin Islands and from Hawaii to the Arctic Circle of Alaska, and it does so with fewer than 4,000 employees nationwide.

It is, according to Mike Smith’s blog: “one of the few federal agencies that is essential to the welfare of the Nation.”

And in my view, NOAA Weather Radio is essential for every household. If live in the US you don’t have a radio capable of receiving the Weather Radio channels, you need one.

For more info, check here:

Spread the radio love

33 thoughts on “Yet another reason why you need a weather radio

  1. Bob Colegrove

    The full potential for the NOAA weather service as an emergency system remains unrealized. The problem lies in the fact that, unlike Accuweather and The Weather Channel, the service has never been particularly well marketed or implemented. They’ve had a long time to make it work.

    • NOAA is not likely to come up when you discuss the weather over the fence with a neighbor or at the water cooler with a coworker. It’s simply not that well known.
    • Relatively few radios come with the NOAA weather band.
    • The local transmitters are out of service or badly distorted at times.
    • The synthetically generated voice is stilted and in a parlance not familiar to everyone. Just say it in terms a person understands.
    • At least in this area, they have a propensity to focus on marine weather. Isn’t this included in the VHF marine band? This information does not interest the non-boat owner, who must then wait for the lengthy broadcast loop to come to the local forecast.
    • During the few instances NOAA has posted alerts in my area over the past several months, I purposely turned on the alert feature mainly to test my new radio. It is simply not something I would leave on continuously out of fear of an impending natural disaster, particularly since the C.Crane Skywave SSB 2 manual warns the feature consumes significant battery power as long as it is enabled.

    In a perfect world, the much illusive repurposing of the AM broadcast band would include a channel of soothing elevator music interrupted only by occasional meteorological prognostications from Miss Monitor. For those of you who have come along since the ‘60s, check out the late Tedi Thurman at That was weather.

    1. Zack S

      In most WX radios you can turn marine alerts off. Sadly you cannot in the Crane.

      The Crane needs to be on AC otherwise the battery will run down. This is in the manual.

      1. Jock Elliott


        Many weather radios, and other weather radio capable receivers, can receive 7 NOAA weather radio channels and have alert capabilities.

        You need to have the more sophisticated SAME (location-selective) and hazard-specific alert capabilities built into the receive capability in order to be able to turn off, for example, marine alerts.

        Most of the “emergency” radios (which usually include AM. FM, and weather radio) that I have looked at do NOT include SAME and hazard-specific alert capabilities.

        Cheers, Jock

  2. Zachary S

    I have a Reecom weather radio and find it indispensable. As the climate changes the USA Is getting more severe storms at night. And I have been woken many times to a severe thunderstorm or tornado warning.

    Also have a CC Radio3 that has a NOAA WX receiver and alert built-in. I always take it traveling and camping. Some places we camp have spotty cell service. Would rather depend on the radio vs “maybe” having a phone app work.

    Another worry is a widespread telecommunications failure caused by hackers.

  3. Robert Gulley

    Redundancy is key to me in many areas. My power happened to go out for about 3-1/2 hors last week, and while hardly a long time, it was at night so I had to get out battery operated lights. I have the kind you use in the workshop(ones that take the same batteries as my tools; I have lights that run on electricity and can use a built in usb charged battery. I have a battery pack/invertor that has emergency LED lights that can light up a room (I know this because I had to use them a few times when I lived in cabin for a year and half with no electricity or water while waiting mon my house to be build during the Covid years). I also have battery-powered LED lanterns that I used extensively while living in the cabin.
    BTW, I listened to shortwave radio during the blackout on my C.Crane Skywave.

    Back to redundancy.
    I have several weather radios, one that is powered by electricity with a battery backup, and two others that are battery operated and have a crank to generate power if the batteries die. These also have lights on them.
    I have both large and small Mr. Heater units and multiple refills of propane for them.
    I have a large and small generator, the small one sufficient for keeping some basics going, the large one in case I need to alternate between the fridge and the freezer. I have two gas burners, one a camping stove (propane) and one a single burner that runs on butane.
    You get the picture. Oh, and I have typically several dozen AA and AAA batteries on hand in addition to the rechargeable eneloop batteries, in case I don’t want to spare the energy for charging.

    I did not acquire all of this at once by any means, but over time a little here, a little there, and I can be off the grid for a very long time until the grid pops back on. Also, I am not trying to brag or tell anyone else what to do, I just wanted to explain my view of redundancy. I don’t rely on the Internet or the cell towers to be working in an emergency – if they are, that’s a bonus, but I won’t bet my life on them. Cheers!

    1. Don Turner

      I have to comment on those crank/solar features, they’re gimmicks to sell the radio, but they’re essentially useless.

      To properly charge a lithium or NiMh battery/battery pack, you need high current, like the kind quick USB chargers produce (3 Amps @ 5 volts).

      I once a few years ago tried using the solar feature of an Eton FX5, which had a large solar panel on the back of the radio, when I got it, I needed to charge it fully with USB source micro port charging.
      Once I did that I tried a long term experiment to see if this largest solar panel in a NOAA/AM/FM radio, with a crank handle on the front would/could keep the internal battery charged or merely “topped off” long term.
      After many months I came back after leaving it sitting facing a strong dappled sunlight via a translucent bathroom window to avoid the proverbial “melting plastic affect of direct sunlight”.
      In its location, it received about 5 hours of strong sunlight, then a lesser amount for about 3-4 hours, but enough to trigger the charging indication of the battery indicator on the display window.

      The result was less than ideal, not only did daily exposure to sunlight not keep the battery topped off, the 3 tier battery symbol had over several months, (because the display is constantly on using a few mA of current to display using a LCD display) almost predictably, the largest solar panel radio could not maintain the 3 tier battery level, after many months, (maybe 6-12 months) only the lowest battery segment remained) so in hindsight, probably best to occasionally recharge rechargeable radios fully every other month depending on how long a given radio can sit idle without draining the entirety of the internal battery level.

      The cranking effect does very little other than to give a momentary boost to the internal battery, plus most radios that brag about using the “crank” to recharge your phone are merely using the cranking action to prevent the internal battery from being totally drained as the internal battery is typically the main source for the recharging of anything connected to the output female USB port on a crank radio.

      1. Robert Gulley

        I suspect that may be the case with all of them when trying to recharge a phone or something similar. As for running the radio or the weather stations, I have had good results using the cranking feature on several radios – mainly just to hear the radio work. I have other means of charging the phone when the power is out, so I can’t speak to that side of things. Cheers!

    2. Jock Elliott


      “I don’t rely on the Internet or the cell towers to be working in an emergency – if they are, that’s a bonus, but I won’t bet my life on them.”


      Cheers, Jock

  4. Rob

    We are surrounded by things we think, or are told that, we “need”. Many think a personal pollution machine (car) is a need, yet it’s a significant contributor to our ultimate demise.
    Humans didn’t evolve with weather radios, so their “need” is highly questionable.

    1. Don Turner

      Perception is subjective following your premise, we could all remain blissfully ignorant of the chaos occurring around us if we choose to live in a commute-free commune and ignore the weather or anything else our earth throws at us.

      Remaining cynical about all things humans do does not change the fact that humans are going to do whatever their intrinsic instincts guide them to do.

      Having a lot of things, like a ubiquitous camera phone are not a necessity, but useful if one believes they can’t live or function without one.
      Most of the hazards nature throws our way are usually perceivable without a NOAA radio, except perhaps if one insists on living in a tornado, hurricane or flood plain prone region.

  5. Don Turner

    Even though I still subscribe to a landline, AT& T has sent me several notices that it wants to petition the agency that enforces such requirements to release AT& T from this mandate.

    Whenever there’s a power outage, the landline is one of the few emergency coms still available locally as depending on the range of a blackout, most of the cell phone towers within range of my location will essentially have their power cut off depending on whether or not each tower has a backup generator and for how long depending on the length of a black out.

    Whenever I wish to use my flip phone (3G) I have to go upstairs for a sweet spot where I get more than 2 or 3 bars so that if I’m calling a service that makes you wait, I won’t be cut off after 20-30 minutes due to poor cell phone signal propagation in my current location.

    Which is why I need a landline, in spite of the fact that the phone company due to cell phones and the inconvenience providing this service, (landline) has caused them to treat all calls, (even next door) as long distance and charge accordingly.

    But landline still provides the clearest voice signal for most calls where I’m answering a call or if I make the call, my wait for someone to answer does not rely upon waiting in a cue for someone to pick up on their end.

    That remains another reason why I use a weak AM station, (over 100 miles away) as a “test signal” for every radio I buy, especially DSP radios due to range as I rarely listen to local flamethrower stations as their format is highly divisive and a largely unproductive use of the AM airwaves from an objective POV.

    The last blackout forced the local flamethrower to perform community service, (imagine that) and keep people informed on when the likelihood of power network repair would allow power to return to our region.

    1. Bob Colegrove

      “Whenever there’s a power outage, the landline is one of the few emergency coms still available locally …”

      Several years ago, Verizon in the Baltimore area went “copperless,” meaning the landline is no longer powered by them. The signal is digital via fiber-optics all the way to the house – part of FIOS, and power for the system comes from your mains. So, the landline goes down with any local power outage. They offered a backup source consisting of 12 D-size batteries which need to be replaced periodically.

      1. Don Turner

        AT&T has been sending me notices saying essentially that they’re asking for permission, (at several scheduled public hearings) to stop providing landline service to the area of town I live in.

        The last power outage, I still had landline service, (about 2 years ago) so I believe AT&T wishes to force me to use a cell phone exclusively for all external coms that are not tied to a landline.

        I didn’t pick our current location and as such, the (3G) service is very spotty in my area, I often have to go upstairs to find a sweet spot where I can get 2-3 bars and not have a call ended due to insufficient signal strength.

        If I had a business or a social life, I’d be upset if all I had was cell phone coverage, but it’s not like societal trends have any “carve-out” clauses to entertain the desires of a few individuals who still have a valid use of a landline.

        1. mangosman

          Australia no longer has landline phone lines. All non-mobile phones are Voice Over Internet Protocol and the phone handset has to digitise the sound. That signal is fed into a VDSL modem, from the on it goes into the National Broadband Network. The connection will be one of the following;
          Fibre to the Premises, Fibre to the Curb, Fibre to the Node (It uses the old phone lines to a Node which connects all the customers within 900 m onto a fibre cable, a coaxial cable which was used for pay TV but is now fully digital, in small towns Fixed Wireless or Skymuster Geostationary Satellite. All will stop working if there is an electricity blackout. Fibre to the Node is the worst because there are cabinets on the verge in suburbs 900 m apart fed locally with electricity. So if an electricity pole is knocked out the internet fails. The NBN says use a mobile phone instead. Wide spread blackouts stops cell base stations after a few hours.

  6. Jay Haasjes

    Jock. Cell Phone towers have been known to go down in a emergency situation. I got ny trusty CCrane Skywave SSB on standby for emergencies.

  7. mangosman

    The cell phone network is inherently unreliable in emergencies because each base station has a coverage area radius of in the low 10s of km so it is not possible to provide portable electricity during blackouts which are very common in emergencies.
    The NOAA weather radio uses 162 MHz VHF FM transmitters with a maximum coverage radius of 60 km as a result only 80 % of the USA population is covered. This is not 80 % of the land area. Whilst uneven coverage is one problem the other is reliability. Do they have backup electricity capable of running continuously for a few days?
    Another disadvantage of this Weather only network is that it is only needed during an emergency and the rest of the time they are unused being unable to transmit other content. This makes it harder to justify the cost of maintenance and replacement. shows which transmitters are off line.
    What percentage of common vehicles have radios which are capable of receiving Weather Radio?
    Another alternative is
    Digital Radio Mondiale has an emergency warning functionality which is in current use in India which is subject to 2 monsoons a year.
    The advantage of this system is that all transmitters are currently carrying normal programming. An emergency alert can wake a sleeping potential victim with a siren and loud announcement, a map of the disaster area, detailed multilingual detailed text and can send a vehicle navigation system the location of police roadblocks so it will re-route the driver. This is all without the unreliable cell phone network.

    Public signage can be used at assembly points which can be powered by a portable generator and the DRM transmitter for this information can be well away from the emergency site.

    1. Zack S

      Digital Radio Mondiale is not used in the USA so this is not a viable suggestion but we have a working emergency radio system in place now via NOAA weather radio.

  8. AM Bob

    Mobile weather apps are useless if the infrastructure goes down which is likely during serious weather events or other natural disasters.

    Tell that to the phone obsessed fools whose lives revolve around their cell phone. They will be lost when the power goes out.

    Portable AM and FM radios will prevail for this reason and shortwave will provide much needed coverage in areas where all communications is lost.

    People don’t realise that modern technology is a house of cards that can be rendered useless by mother earth.

    1. Don Turner

      A close similarity to my line of reasoning on the issue of redundancy regarding unforseen acts of humans coupled with the unpredictability of the earth itself regarding sudden disasters.

      Which is why one should attempt to mimic a likely scenario before an emergency happens to determine if a stand-by radio will actually perform as needed during an actual emergency.

      1. Jock Elliott


        “Which is why one should attempt to mimic a likely scenario before an emergency happens to determine if a stand-by radio will actually perform as needed during an actual emergency.”

        Yes, yes, YES!

        The time to figure out if stuff works as intended in an emergency is NOT when the fertilizer has already hit the fan . . . the time is now.

        Cheers, Jock

    2. Michael

      Well if the infrastructure goes down then I guess you don’t need the weather app to warn you because it’s too late. 🙂

  9. James Fields

    Everyone defines “need” in different ways, and when we’re preparing for emergencies we all have varying tolerance for levels of perceived risk. For me, living in an area prone to hurricanes and strong thunderstorms that may render my cell service unreliable at times, having a NOAA-capable radio is cheap insurance that I can get information important to me when I’m most likely to need it. However, I don’t use a dedicated weather radio – my go-to for NOAA is the C. Crane Skywave SSB, which performs better than other weather radios I’ve owned.

    1. Jock Elliott


      “having a NOAA-capable radio is cheap insurance that I can get information important to me when I’m most likely to need it. ”


      Cheers, Jock

    2. Rob W4ZNG

      James, I agree. What’s more, at least on my (non-ssb) Skywave, it has the easiest to use “monitor silently and let people sleep peacefully” function of any of my radios. Still need to upgrade to the SSB version.

    3. Don Turner

      Perhaps you’re referring to a NOAA receivers ability to pick up a useable signal without much fuss with having to extend the whip antenna for good reception, using a DSP receiver, I’m usually able to pick up 2 channels locally, (one is slightly stronger than the other) and if I’m testing distance, I can usually pick up channel 7 from the LA basin area, but only if I fully extend the whip antenna.

      These 3 NOAA signals still provide a good test signal for circuit design of NOAA capable radios I buy, granted it takes a lot more effort on non-DSP radios to pick up a useable signal these days depending on how old the superhet radio happens to be, so I usually use DSP even though early models tended to arrive occasionally with burned out DSP chips which rendered those radios DOA as receivers and once they solved that issue, the next issue was how early DSP tended to starve the DSP of power when the volume was turned up to max, the VCO on those versions were hypersensitive to power drain caused by near max volume attempts, which would turn off the power as it reached a threshold where the DSP had insufficient power to operate and would turn off according to the volume level remaining near max.

      The cure for this conundrum meant starving the audio amp of full power meaning max volume was not sufficiently loud enough in a loud emergency environment where a NOAA radio might be operating and mother nature happened to be raging outside.

      A NOAA radio is useless if it can’t power up during an, (actual) emergency due to poor power reliability constraints, (like an inability of a lithium battery to hold a full charge when not in use) and a lack of sufficient volume when it’s needed the most.

  10. Don Turner

    Not everyone has an intrinsic need for an ubiquitous “camera phone” in their lives, (I typically only use my flip-phone for emergencies, (no pun intended) and calling in refills on my diabetic meds) plus If I ever have trouble falling asleep, I put on the sleep timer on one of my NOAA radios and drift off to the monosyllabic tones of the weather guys voice.

    1. Michael

      The writer is telling us why we “need” a weather radio and said “NOAA Weather Radio is essential for every household” and I am simply saying it’s not needed for EVERY HOUSEHOLD.

    2. Jock Elliott


      “plus If I ever have trouble falling asleep, I put on the sleep timer on one of my NOAA radios and drift off to the monosyllabic tones of the weather guys voice.”

      Not a bad way to have “the sandman” visit.

      Cheers, Jock

  11. Michael

    I’ve had NOAA weather radios over the years but nowadays smart phones have weather apps for free. You can even get alerts for hazardous weather. Everything is online. Not sure we “need” a NOAA radio these days.

    1. Jock Elliott


      I take your point, but I am a firm believer in having redundant means of gathering information in the event of an emergency.

      Remember the most devastating corollary to Murphy’s Law: ie, Murphy was an optimist.

      Cheers, Jock

    2. Zack S

      That is great until there is a power failure and your local cell tower has no power or hackers take down the cell system.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.