Want to Hear Tornado Warnings Reliably? Here’s How.

ImageThere’s one quote from tornado victims that I hear way too much – “We had no warning.”  In the vast majority of cases, that’s simply not true.  Statistics show nearly every tornado that touches down here in the U.S. has a tornado warning as or before it touches down.  The problem is people aren’t HEARING the warnings.
What good is a warning if no one hears it? There are several different options to help ensure you don’t miss another one:

  • Weather Apps for smart phones. The easiest way to receive the warning these days is over your cell phone.  If you have a smart phone, you can use a weather app such as iMap Weather Radio or MyWarn. These two apps will notify you when you are in a warned area based on your GPS location and are very easy to set up and use but they do have a cost. There are free warning apps such as Weather Alert USA but these, in my opinion, are designed more for weather enthusiasts and feature a myriad of options that can take time to configure. Other weather apps such as those by AccuWeather and The Weather Channel come with warning features that can be activated if desired. Also, more and more local television stations are offering free weather apps which have alert features. To find out your local stations offer them, simply visit their websites.
  • Text alerts on mobile phones. Even if you don’t have a smart phone, many local counties and municipalities in storm-prone areas offer free text alerts to your mobile phone. Just contact your local city or county office to find out.  Some local television stations also offer a free text alert service while others have paid services by companies such as WeatherCall. Finally, the government is now sending out text alerts for tornado warnings via a system called CMAS.  New mobile and smart phones come embedded with a special chip that allow them to receive these free notifications from the government. The CMAS system continues to be rolled out across the country and is automatically enabled on your new phone. You can find more information about CMAS HERE.
  • Weather Radios. These special weather band radios have been around for years and feature an alert tone that will automatically sound when a warning is issued. You can buy them online and from stores such as Wal-Mart, Walgreens, Radio Shack, Kroger and others which sell electronics. Weather radios have battery back-up power so that they will work even if the power gets knocked out. Make sure to purchase one with Specific Area Message Encoding (S.A.M.E.) feature so that you can program it to alert only for the county in which you live.  You will have to program your county code into the radio.  To find your local code, click HERE.
  • Local radio and television stations. Forecasts can now identify areas likely to see severe weather several days in advance. If you hear about the potential for tornadoes for your hometown, make sure to stay close to a source of weather information such a local radio and televisions stations so that you can monitor warnings and follow along with meteorologists who are tracking the storms. However, it’s best if you use media in conjunction with your weather app, text service or weather radio. This way if you lose power, which often happens in severe weather situations, you’ll still be able to receive new warnings.
  • DO NOT RELY ON SIRENS  Tornado Sirens were designed for people outdoors near them to hear.  You cannot reliably hear them from inside a home.  You need another source of weather warning information even if you live very close to one.

Our tornado season kicks off in March.  Act now to make sure you’re prepared for your next tornado warning.  These days, no one should be saying, “I had no warning.”

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