Opinion Matters

With Gazette Opinion Editor Greg Peck

Greg Peck: Does a weather radio help protect your family?

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Greg Peck
Tuesday, July 1, 2014

I was on vacation when Father's Day passed, so my son, Josh, dropped off a gift for me Sunday. It was an NOAA emergency radio. NOAA stands for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, parent agency of the National Weather Service. The NOAA started a hazards network in 1972, and it provides direct warnings about all hazards to lives and property. It operates 37 stations that broadcast information in Wisconsin alone.

Josh recalled a blog I wrote a year or two ago in which I suggested such a radio might be nice to have. I wrote that, when our air-conditioner is running and the windows are shut in the middle of the night, it's unlikely my wife, Cheryl, and I could hear the sirens wailing if a severe thunderstorm or tornado approached.

When Josh dropped off the gift, Cheryl wasn't thrilled about the potential for shrill alarms in the middle of the night. She pointed out she's survived all these decades without the need for such a radio. Josh countered that those who lost loved ones in Joplin, Missouri, when a 2011 tornado killed 158 people, probably felt the same way. Besides, he said, Gary Cannalte meteorologist for Channel 3, suggests such a radio could be crucial to your safety.

Later Sunday night, Josh texted me about Rock County being under a tornado watch and noted that, had I set up the radio, it should have alerted us. I texted him back Monday morning that it had been too late and I hadn't taken the time to set it up Sunday night before going to bed.

Another storm rolled through Rock County on Monday. The sky looked so ominous and winds were blowing so strongly that Cheryl took our dog, Molly, and spent about 10 minutes in the basement to assure their safety.

When I got home from work Monday night, Cheryl seemed a little more welcoming of the weather radio. She pointed out that I had yet to remove it from the package. I did so, studied the information booklet and worked through various settings. It's now positioned in a bedroom adjacent to our master bedroom, where I'm sure I would awaken from any weather alert it might emit.

Ready Wisconsin calls weather radios “smoke detectors for severe weather.” The radios feature alarms with battery backups. The one Josh bought us at a local pharmacy allowed me to program it to alert us only for hazardous conditions that affect Rock County.

Ready Wisconsin's website at shares stories of Wisconsinites who survived tornadoes thanks to early warnings from such radios. Another Ready Wisconsin website has a Q&A with frequently asked questions about weather radios.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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