March 20, 2013

Radio could save lives during storm

Jessica Lane, Staff Writer,
The Express-Star

CHICKASHA — Storm season started March 1 and runs to mid-June. One way that Grady County citizens can stay informed is with a weather radio.

"These are just as important as a smoke detector," Dale Thompson, Grady County Emergency Management Director said.

The Midland WR-100 is a basic weather radio which can be found in Walmart or Ross or about $30, Thompson said.

As with smoke detectors, the three AAA batteries should be changed at least twice a year, on daylight savings time.

Thompson said that weather radios may be more important now, with more and more people watching satellite television and less local channels.

Thompson said that he gets a lot of calls from people asking why they can't hear the outdoor sirens. These sirens, Thompson said, are not manufactured, designed or intended to be heard indoors.

In addition, there are rural towns which do not have outdoor sirens or have very limited sirens. Moreover, humidity, the wind and other factors can affect how far and where the sound travels, Thompson said.  

The weather radios can be set to pick up transmitters from multiple counties. This may be especially helpful for those who live on the cusp of different counties.

"I encourage everyone to purchase one of these," Thompson said.

Thompson said users also have the option of bringing their weather radio into the Grady County Emergency Management office for help setting the weather radio up, free of charge.

Every Wednesday, the weather sirens are tested at noon and at 7 p.m.

Thompson recommends that weather radio users keep them where they can hear them at night, such as their bedroom or living room.

Portable weather radios are another option.

The iMapWeather Radio app is another option for smartphone and tablet users. The user gets warnings and watches for their location, meaning this app is good for travel.

The Oklahoma Mesonet is another option, which is free.

When it comes to weather alertness, Thompson said that Oklahoma can pat itself on the back.

The National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office, which gives weather watches to 48 states in the nation is located in Norman, Oklahoma.

The Grady County Emergency Management Facebook is also constantly updated.

In general, Oklahomans usually get several days' notice that severe weather is moving in, Thompson said. However, a weather radio can help Grady County citizens to take personal responsibility for themselves and their families' safety.

Thompson recommended an outdoor scanner antenna for those who have difficulty getting a good signal, such as underground or in a concrete building.

Weather radios can be used by emergency management to broadcast other types of warnings.

Last year, during a fire in Ninnekah, Thompson used the weather radios to warn specific locations of the fire.

The weather radio can also be used for civil defense alerts, hazard material spill alerts and even Amber Alerts.