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PREP TIPS: Know Emergency Radio Stations

Mar 27, 2019

During an emergency, authorities can use the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) infrastructure to send alerts, warnings, and other potentially life-saving messages to the public. The IPAWS infrastructure connects the Emergency Alert System (EAS), Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio, and other public alerting systems.

Messages are sent via the IPAWS infrastructure to all major wireless carriers (i.e., AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, etc.). Once these carriers receive a message, they send it out to their customers’ cell phones.

During an emergency, there could be a lot of people trying to make calls on their cell phones at the same time. Your cell phone could have a signal, but you would have issues with connecting to the network and making/receiving calls or text messages. Even in this situation--when the network is congested--you should still receive alerts from IPAWS on your cell phone.

However, if the cellular network is down in your area -- say from damaged cell towers -- then the cell phones in that area, including yours, won’t be able to receive the alerts from IPAWS. In this situation, an emergency radio may be your only way to receive alerts and other important information. You see, an AM/FM radio doesn’t rely on local cell towers; it can pick up radio waves being transmitted over the air from hundreds of miles away.

This is why it’s important to know your emergency radio stations.

NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts weather warnings, watches, and forecasts, as well as warnings and information for natural and manmade disasters and other public safety hazards. These 24/7 broadcasts are at frequencies between 162.400 and 162.550 MHz. These frequencies cannot be received on standard AM/FM radios, so make sure you have a radio that can pick them up.

Find the NOAA Weather Radio station for your specific area here: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/coverage/station_listing.html

Additional Resources