UPDATE: Commenter Bill makes an excellent point. NOAA weather radio operates on five frequencies. If you are traveling, you have to tune the radio to the appropriate frequency in order to get a warning. As I say above, it is not a robust system because there are too many points of failure. Thanks, Bill.
“Before they go out camping to always check our forecasts from the national weather service,” Lawrence said. He also said you should pack a NOAA weather radio if you want to stay informed on your trip.”
Numerous news stories in the wake of the Arkansas flood tragedy last week have advised people to obtain and carry NOAA Weather Radios. Examples here, here, and here.
Only one problem: The weather radio channel that served the campground was out of service that night and a radio wouldn’t have gone off. Details here.
This isn’t the first time this has happened. In November, 2005, a tornado struck Evansville, IN at 1:50 am. Immediately, the “buy a weather radio” news stories began. But, in that case, like the Arkansas floods, the weather radios didn’t go off. Twenty-five people died.
In both the Arkansas flash floods and the Evansville tornado, the local NWS issued timely, outstanding warnings that could have saved lives. But, the NWS technology to wake people up failed. This is why I continue to be a fan of sirens and a fan of the emerging technology of putting warnings into GPS-equipped cell phones. Modern technology for both sirens and cell phones will solve the “overwarning” problem associated with the weather radios (i.e., the radio waking you up even when you are outside of the threat area).
It is fine with me if people want a weather radio. For the low cost, it is probably a good investment. But, it is dangerous to depend, solely, on weather radios — especially in remote areas. The system is not very robust. A mix of technologies is more fail safe.