One step you can take to protect yourself and your family from severe weather is to remain weather aware. Being weather aware means being informed of the weather forecast and alert to potential hazards. Knowing what to do and where to go when watches and warnings are issued is key to your safety, but you also have be aware when your area is under one of these alerts to be able to use this information. That’s why everyone should learn how to use today’s technology; the internet, commercial TV and radio, and NOAA Weather Radios, to be weather aware!
What to Listen For:
Watch- A watch is issued to give advance notice when conditions are favorable for the development of severe weather, whether it is severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, or flash flooding. When a watch is issued for your area, it is time to take precautions and make sure you are prepared should bad weather strike.
Warning- Warnings are issued when severe weather is occurring or imminent. When a warning is issued for your area, you should take action immediately to protect your life and your property.
How to Receive the Warnings:
NOAA Weather Radio
The NOAA Weather Radio should be your primary indoor warning system. If you purchase a radio with Specific Area Message Encoding (S.A.M.E) capability, you can customize your radio to only get alerts for your local area or favorite vacation spot. More importantly, these radios are on watch 24/7 to alert you to severe weather. There are now portable weather radios that can be used to supplement and outdoor warning system. NOAA Weather Radios can be purchased at most “big-box” stores.
Television & Radio Media
The National Weather Service (NWS) also has a strong relationship with the television and radio broadcast media and relies on them to help broadcast NWS warnings to the public. This is a very important relationship since most Iowans get severe weather warnings from commercial media. Several stations will provide wall-to-wall severe weather coverage during high end events with a focus on their local area. In addition, television media usually add value to the warnings with radar displays and visually explain where the threat is.
The Emergency Alert System (EAS) also broadcasts severe weather warnings directly from the NWS over television and radio to the public. Primary EAS Stations for Story County are; KASI 1430AM, WOI 640AM, KCCQ 105.1FM, WOI 90.1FM and WOI TV Channel 5.
Outdoor Warning Sirens
Since a majority of the sudden, severe weather events happen in the summer time when we’re outdoors, outdoor warning sirens have become a life saver, but everyone must remember these sirens are only for when you are outdoors. If you are outside and hear a steady warning siren, no matter what you are doing, you should immediately find shelter, take cover, and if possible turn on a radio or TV to a local station for more information and possible emergency instructions. The outdoor warning sirens will be activated in Story County in the case of a tornado or damaging winds and hail.
Do Not Call 911 for or local fire or police agencies to ask why the sirens are sounding. If it is an emergency, they are busy getting equipment and resources to the emergency scene.
Cell & Smart Phones
People can use their cell phones to receive notification of NWS warnings while on the move. Select high impact NWS warnings are sent to cell phones as a Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA). The service is free of charge and messages will not count towards texting limits on your wireless plan. It comes enabled on newer cell phones depending on the carrier so check with your local carrier or at the following link Wireless Emergency Alert Cell Phones to ensure your phone is compatible. For more information on the WEA system and a list of NWS messages you may receive follow this link: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/com/weatherreadynation/wea.html
Here is how WEA works: If you are at home, or traveling in an area where a warning has been issued, your phone will receive alerts broadcast by nearby cell towers. If your phone is enabled to receive alerts, your phone will receive an alert that resembles a text message, the message will be no longer than 90 characters. The alert will have a special tone and vibration, repeated twice, so that you will be able to tell it apart from a regular message. If you receive an alert, you should follow any action advised by the emergency message and seek additional details.
In recent years, many more people receive severe weather warnings over the internet. Most people still use desk-top or laptop PC’s to gain access to the internet. Internet access is expanding rapidly and now many people have internet access on their cellular phones.
People use various websites which have access to NWS warnings. The direct way to access NWS warnings is over its website at: www.weather.gov/desmoines or now through a mobile friendly site at http://mobile.weather.gov
Information on outdoor warning systems and other Severe Weather Preparedness information can be located on the Story County website at www.storycountyiowa.gov/ema under Disaster & Emergency Preparedness. Story County Emergency Management can also be followed through Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/storycountyema which is being used for public education and Emergency Management activities.