NOAA Weather Radio http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NOAA_Weather_Radio NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) is a nationwide network of radio stations broadcasting continuous weather information directly from a nearby National Weather Service office . NWR broadcasts National Weather Service warnings, watches, forecasts and other hazard information 24 hours a day. Working with the Federal Communication Commission's (FCC) Emergency Alert System , NWR is an "All Hazards" radio network, making it your single source for comprehensive weather and emergency information. In conjunction with Federal, State, and Local Emergency Managers and other public officials, NWR also broadcasts warning and post-event information for all types of hazards – including natural (such as earthquakes or avalanches), environmental (such as chemical releases or oil spills), and public safety (such as AMBER alerts or 911 Telephone outages). Operations Known as the "Voice of NOAA's National Weather Service," NWR is provided as a public service by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), part of the Department of Commerce. NWR includes more than 940 transmitters , covering all 50 states, adjacent coastal waters, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the U.S. Pacific Territories. NWR requires a special radio receiver or scanner capable of picking up the signal. The radio service, available over much of North America, transmits weather warnings and forecasts 24 hours a day. Hundreds of stations are operated in the U.S. (where it is more commonly called NOAA Weather Radio (NWR)) by the National Weather Service of NOAA, and in Canada by the Meteorological Service of Canada, under Environment Canada. Each radio station is programmed from a local or regional NWS or MSC office. One station is also available in Bermuda, operated by the Bermuda Weather Service. Most stations broadcast on a special VHF frequency band at 162 MHz, which has seven narrowband FM channels. The original frequency was 162.550, with 162.400 and 162.475 being added later. In recent years, the proliferation of stations meant to make sure everyone has access to warnings has pushed that number to seven, now including the "intermediate" channels of 162.425, 162.450, 162.500, and 162.525 MHz. These channels (often numbered in that order) are receivable on special weather radio receivers, available across both countries by mail-order and at some retailers such as Radio Shack, on most marine VHF radio transceivers, and on scanners. In addition, many consumer electronics, such as two-way radios, are now being sold with the ability to receive weather radio broadcasts. Some stations in Canada also broadcast on regular FM and AM broadcast frequencies. When a weather warning is issued for the area which a station covers, certain weather radios are designed to turn on or sound an alarm upon detection of a 1050 Hz tone, issued for ten seconds immediately before the warning message. In the U.S., newer radios can instead detect a digital-over-audio protocol called Specific Area Message Encoding or SAME, which allows the radio to limit alarms to only certain warnings, and only to the actual section of the broadcast area which the listener is located. (This system was later adopted by the Emergency Alert System -- the replacement for the earlier Emergency Broadcast System and even earlier CONELRAD) now required by the FCC for broadcast stations.) In Canada, many stations operate Weather-copy, which is a higher-speed version that can actually transmit entire text forecasts and warnings, but is not designed for alerting. This system has been decommissioned in 2003 because of new technologies such as the internet and satellite. Example NOAA weather radio coverage for part of Michigan. The bulk of programming however is still in regular voice rather than digital, with a forecaster recording each message once and a system having it repeat in a loop. In the U.S., the NWS has now installed a console replacement system (CRS) which uses a synthesized voice to read text announcements. The voices have recently been upgraded with new software that gives a much more realistic and pleasant male (named "Tom", who reads the public forecast) or female voice (named "Donna", who reads the marine forecast and the hourly weather roundup), and also allows intonation so that the tone of voice changes with the urgency of the message being read. They supplanted a more primitive male voice called "NOAA's Perfect Paul" from DECTalk System & TripleTalk which had been nicknamed "Igor", "Sven", and "Arnold", among others, for its mechanically awkward pronunciation and intonation (another voice, "Huge Harry" was also used). "Paul" and "Harry" can still occasionally be heard on some stations, for example giving station identification. Many stations also broadcast in other local languages, including both French and English in Ottawa/Gatineau, Montréal, and the city of Québec; French only in other parts of the province of Québec, and synthesized in both English and Spanish in Puerto Rico. External links U.S. NOAA/NWS Weatheradio page www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr Canada EC/MSC Weatheradio page http://www.msc.ec.gc.ca/msb/weatheradio//index_e.cfm Bermuda Weather Service www.bermudaweather.bm/bws/ http://www.weatherradio.info Emergency Alert System http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emergency_Alert_System The Emergency Alert System (EAS), is a national system in the U.S. put into place in 1997, superseding the Emergency Broadcast System and administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The EAS covers both radio and television (including low-power stations), and cable television companies. EAS messages are handled by specialized equipment called EAS encoder-decoders, or endecs. The decoder component receives and interprets EAS messages from at least two state-assigned stations, and the encoder component transmits relayed messages. Low-power stations are only required to have the decoder components, but all other stations must have both decoder and encoder components. Technical concept In the EAS system, messages are originated in four parts. The first part is the SAME header code, the most critical part of the EAS design. It is repeated three times, so that decoders can pick "best two out of three" for each byte, thereby eliminating most errors which can cause an activation to fail. The header code contains information about who originated the alert (President, state or local authorities, the National Weather Service, or the broadcaster), what the event is (tornado, flood, nuclear), the areas affected (up to 32 counties or states), how long the alert is valid for, the exact UTC time it was issued, and the identification of the station or other entity. (See SAME for a complete breakdown of the header.) Each station must have installed an EAS decoder which then interprets these data bursts. Two of the three bursts must be found to be identical by the decoder for the message to be valid. The decoder then decides, based on its pre-programming, whether to ignore the message as not pertaining to the local area, or whether to relay it on the air. All EAN and EAT messages must be relayed immediately, and all required weekly and monthly tests (RWT and RMT) within 60 (formerly 15) minutes. For reliability, every station must monitor at least two other source stations, one of which must be designated a local primary. The SAME header bursts are followed by an alert tone, lasting between eight and 25 seconds depending on the originating station, that carries no information. The tone, a combination of 853 Hz and 960 Hz sine wave tones, is the same combination of two tones that the old Emergency Broadcast System used as its attention signal. Like the old EBS, this tone is in turn followed by a voice message giving details of the alert. The message is ended by three bursts of the AFSK "EOM", or end of message, which is the text NNNN, preceded each time by the binary 10101011 calibration. All EAS equipment must be tested weekly. The RWT, or required weekly test, consists only of the three AFSK header bursts and the three AFSK EOM bursts with no voice, and are essentially internal tests of the system components. Required monthly tests (RMT) are transmitted with all four parts, with the voice (and text on TV) stating that it is only a test. The RMT must be transmitted in the daytime and at night in alternating months. The number of events in the national system has recently grown by several increments, and is now forty-nine events. At first, they were almost all weather events with only one to three possible categories for civil emergencies, but several classes of non-weather emergencies have now been added. In most states, the AMBER Alert System, for child abduction emergencies, has now been added as well. Stations are required by law to keep full logs of all received and transmitted EAS messages, usually accomplished by a small receipt printer in the endec unit. Logs may also be kept electronically inside the unit, as long as there is access to an external printer, sometimes via transfer to a personal computer. In 2004, the FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comment on whether EAS in its present form is the most effective mechanism for warning the American public of an emergency and, if not, on how EAS can be improved. EAS for consumers EAS is designed to be useful for the entire public, not just those with SAME-capable equipment. However, several consumer-level radios do exist, especially weather radio receivers, which are available to the public through both mail-order and retailers like Radio Shack, Circuit City, Best Buy, and several others. Other specialty receivers for FM radio are available only through mail-order, or in some places from federal, state, or local governments, especially where there is a potential hazard nearby such as a nuclear plant or chemical factory. These radios come pre-tuned to a station in each area that has agreed to provide this service to local emergency management officials and agencies, often with a direct link back to the plant's safety system or control room for instant activation should an evacuation or other emergency arise. The ability to narrow messages down so that only the actual area in danger is alerted is extremely helpful in preventing false warnings, which was previously a major tune-out factor. Instead of sounding for all warnings within a station's area, SAME-decoder radios now sound only for the counties they are programmed for. When the alarm sounds, anyone with the radio knows that the danger is nearby and protective action should be taken. For this reason, the goal of the National Weather Service is that each home should have both a smoke detector and a SAME weather radio. Incidents Several state officials including New York Governor George Pataki, former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and U.S. Congressmen and Senators have questioned members of the FCC on why the Emergency Alert System was not implemented nationwide on radio and television stations during the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks where official government information is/was supposed to be distributed in place of local/network programming or newscasts. The EAS was to have issued such messages that the United States was under attack, but no warning broadcast was issued...even in New York City. On February 1, 2005 at 2:10pm Eastern Standard Time an employee within the Connecticut Office of Emergency Management inadvertently activated an EAS message over radio and television stations telling residents to evacuate the state immediately. At 3:45pm officials at the OEM announced that the activation and broadcast of the Emergency Alert System was in error due to the fact that the button used to conduct weekly EAS tests is located next to a button that is used to issue an emergency alert to evacuate the state.
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