Pros:Gives us an opportunity to prepare. Wakes us up at night if necessary.
Cons:Cannot be programmed to receive only certain alerts. Can't depend on it exclusively.
The Bottom Line: A heads up that severe weather is heading your way...as long as all conditions are right for you to recieve the transmission.
We moved a few years ago away from the stress of hurricanes only to find out tornadoes are scarier. We now live in tornado alley and after seeing what can happen we always take alerts seriously.
Recommend this product?
False sense of security
The first thing to know is the weather alert radio is just a tool and cannot predict what will actually happen. The radio will alert the user when conditions are favorable for severe weather in a general area. This is best used in conjunction with other media to see the storm pattern. There were times when we’ve been in the safe room and the weather radio had not even gone off yet.
We have had this weather radio for many years and there have been times I've checked on the weather radio because the weather was bad enough that it should have gone off. There were instances where the button on the side was moved to "off" somehow, the volume set so low it went to silent mode, batteries died, or it just lost reception. It would be nice if there was an alarm to let me know the signal has been lost. There have also been times when a tornado has been on the ground in our town and passed before it was reported on the weather radio. Obviously reports take time, but tornadoes stir up in an instant which is why early notification is so important.
Where are the alerts coming from?
NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) NWS (National Weather Service) is the sole official voice of the U.S. government for issuing warnings during life-threatening weather situations.
The Midland WR-100 weather radio is tuned into the NWS and can receive broadcasts up to 50 miles from a weather station on one of the 7 channels.
An issue we have is reception. We barely get TV or radio signal for anything so it was not surprising that our alert radio only gets reception in certain areas of the house. We also keep an eye on it when the weather is bad because bad weather also affects the signal. There is an old fashioned antenna on the radio that can be moved around to find the best signal. Midland recommends the 18-259W VHF Through-Glass Antenna (approximately $15) for improved reception.
What does S.A.M.E. mean?
Reading the manual is a must. The instructions tell how to figure out what the geographic code is and then how to enter it into the radio to activate the S.A.M.E. feature. If the manual has been lost, a copy can be found online.
S.A.M.E. stands for Special Area Message Coding. This is awesome because once the weather radio has been programmed for a location, only alerts in that area will be announced. We are not direction readers, so we just plugged it in and went about our day. We were receiving messages while we slept for counties not even near us. We were very frustrated until we realized it could be programmed to only receive alerts for our area.
More than one county can also be added which is helpful since we live pretty much on the line of two counties.
What do the alerts mean?
Only the most severe alerts are broadcast. It really rarely goes off unless it’s very ugly outside. Weather speak is a little confusing because the words seem similar.
Watch = chance it will happen. Be aware.
Warning = already occurring or high probablility. Take action.
Advisory = pretty good chance for something less severe.
Here are some common alerts: tornado, hurricane, severe thunderstorm, flood, ice or snow, winter storms, extreme heat, fire threats, etc. There are 50 different types of notifications.
We also receive Amber alerts (America's Missing: Broadcasting Emergency Response) also called CAE (Child Abduction Emergency): it gives a description of a missing person that has been abducted such as what the person was wearing and where last seen. The purpose is to keep a lookout for the person in the description and call authorities if spotted.
We used to have our weather radio set up in the master bedroom but with the door closed and daily activities it could not be heard very well. When the weather alarm goes off, it’s good to be close to hear what the alert is for. We ended up moving ours to the center of our house and now everyone can hear the alarm and listen to the report from where they are without getting up and pushing the button. It was convenient to have it in our bedroom at night, but it is instinct to just shut it off and head back to bed without hearing the message.
The features consist of display only (silent alarm, text only), voice (8 second alert then voice tells the conditions in English only), or tone (alert sounds for 5 minutes until you push the weather button). A little red light will glow if there is a message for the listening area. The past 10 alerts are stored in memory. To repeat anything you may have missed, just push the button again.
The beep that alarms listeners is obnoxiously loud. The neighbors can probably hear this. I don’t like that it has the same beep is used for all warnings so a chance of a thunderstorm gets the same beep as a tornado on the ground.
While I hate thunderstorm watch alerts while I sleep, it does come in handy during the day. Our children like to play outside and I get warnings of approaching storms before it looks bad outside. I’ve also changed my driving plans accordingly because I didn’t realize bad weather was heading in or a flood warning was in effect.
Three AA batteries (not included) are necessary for when the power goes out. We check ours occasionally to make sure the batteries are still working and haven’t corroded.
This is sold in stores and online for around $30. The product has a one year limited warranty. Ours has lasted for more than 6 years.
Even if you don't like the idea of this going off all the time, it's good to have on hand to set up when you're expecting bad weather and want a heads up.
Our TV trends have also changed so we don’t get the news breaking in to notify us of storms while we’re streaming video from Netflix. Now days I receive instant text messages and emails with bad weather notifications but only the weather radio wakes me up in the middle of the night from a deep sleep. I also sleep better knowing the storm outside my window late at night is just a thunderstorm. A lot of other weather alert radios have more features than this one. This is a basic model.
Is the coast clear?
If you’re hiding in your safe place, don’t expect to be notified when it’s safe to come out. The weather radio is really very ineffective when the moment of implementing the emergency plan comes into play because the reception is poor (at least in our house) so it doesn’t travel to another room well, there’s no AM/FM radio on this model, and it doesn’t let the user know the danger has passed (other than saying the warning is in effect until x oclock when it's initially announced). Grab your smartphone not the Midland weather radio when you take cover; a warning is about all this is useful for.
My kids are occasionally home when I’m not and they are not as familiar with weather patterns. It’s very handy to have the alarm to let them know if dangerous weather is approaching. Sometimes a lot of information is given such as listing all of the surrounding counties the advisory is in effect for so they like the replay feature so they can listen to the message again. It’s hard for the kids to keep the “watch” and “warning” straight as well as what county we’re listening for especially if many days have passed between messages so a note by the machine can be helpful.
We have been in the middle of some serious weather in the past so they are often scared at night when they hear storms. The kids rely heavily on the weather radio to know what is going on outside and it helps keep the midnight door knockers in their bed when they know the weather alarm will let us know when it is time to get serious.
Alerts at night
I hate waking up for a severe thunderstorm warning or Amber alert in the middle of the night. I wish the gadget had a mode that refrained from general alerts while I sleep. On a stormy night this goes off many-many times. It beeps first to announce a severe thunderstorm, then to announce a tornado watch, then to announce a tornado warning, and then again all over again. It is tempting to throw it across the room. But. What if. Just this once. It wasn’t a false alarm?
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