4 FAQs About a NOAA Weather Radio

NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Weather Radio All Hazards (NWR) is a nationwide network of radio stations broadcasting continuous weather information directly from the nearest National Weather Service office.

NWR broadcasts official Weather Service warnings, watches, forecasts and other hazard information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Known as the “voice of the National Weather Service,” NWR is provided as a public service.

Here’s what to know about buying and using a NOAA Weather Radio.

What is a NOAA weather radio?

During an emergency, routine weather radio programming will be interrupted to send out the special tone that activates weather radios in the listening area. A NOAA Weather Radio equipped with a special alarm tone feature can sound an alert and give you immediate information about a life-threatening situation.

Options for the hearing- and visually-impaired include linking the weather radio to other kinds of attention-getting devices like strobe lights, pagers, bed-shakers, personal computers and text printers.

How much does a radio cost?

There are three main types of weather radios:

  1. Scanner/Marine Radio/Basic Weather Radio – monitor only (all National Weather Service warnings), no alarm
  2. Tone Alert Weather Radio – automatically activated when a 1050Hz tone is issued for any of the counties in broadcast range; cost range $20-50
  3. Specific Area Message Encoder (SAME) – automatically activated for only the counties you choose; cost range $40-70 (more advanced models may cost up to $200)

What features should I look for in a NOAA Weather Radio?

Here are the top five options:

  1. An alarm tone, with other attention-getting options if needed.
  2. Pre-select option so you can choose what National Weather Service alerts you want to receive according to local geographic areas (counties or in some cases portions of counties).
  3. SAME feature (Specific Area Message Encoding) so the receiver will turn itself on from a silent mode when the digital code is broadcast before the alarm tone is sounded for the geographic area you have pre-selected.
  4. AC adapter with battery back-up in case the electrical services may be interrupted.
  5. Ability to tune or switch to all seven NWR frequencies. Some older models receive only three frequencies which will not work in all locations.

How do I find my local station?

The NWR network has more than 1025 transmitters, covering all 50 states, adjacent coastal waters, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the U.S. Pacific Territories. Start by choosing your state or location from the NWR list, then choosing the transmitter closest to your location.