NOAA 97-76

Contact: :  Barry Reichenbaugh              FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
                                            12/3/97

TOLL-FREE NUMBER OFFERS NOAA WEATHER RADIO CODES

A new generation of NOAA Weather Radio receivers introduced this fall enables listeners to screen out official National Weather Service watches and warnings that do not apply to their geographic area. Now the NWS is making it easier for owners of these specially-equipped receivers to get the state and county code needed for programming the receivers through a toll-free telephone number.

NOAA Weather Radio, the "Voice of the National Weather Service," broadcasts official NWS watches, warnings and hazard information and local forecasts 24 hours a day over a growing national network of more than 450 transmitters. Routine forecast information is updated every one to three hours, and NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts are repeated about every five minutes.

"This new warning procedure is a breakthrough because it lets NOAA Weather Radio listeners screen out the severe weather alarms they don't want to hear," said Louis J. Boezi, National Weather Service deputy director for modernization. "If listeners are awakened at 3 a.m. for a severe weather warning 75 miles away, they may eventually tune out all together. We don't want that to happen."

During an emergency, National Weather Service forecasters interrupt local NOAA Weather Radio programming and send out an alarm tone that activates NOAA Weather Radio receivers within the entire listening area. Since transmitters typically reach people within a range of hundreds of square miles, technical limitations have led to the appearance of "over warning" for some severe weather events.

Receivers equipped with Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME) technology allow listeners to choose which counties their radio will sound an alarm for when official NWS watches and warnings are issued. Older NOAA Weather Radio receivers continue to work, but these older receivers do not allow listeners to screen out weather service alarms for individual counties.

By calling 1-888-NWR-SAME (1-888-697-7263), listeners can use a touch-tone telephone keypad to enter the state and county of interest to get the SAME codes they need to program their receiver. Callers should have a pen and paper ready, and will need to know either the two-letter postal abbreviation of the state or how to spell the state, and the correct spelling of the county. After the telephone system recognizes the county, it will provide the six-digit SAME code to program into the NOAA Weather Radio receiver. For people who do not have access to a touch tone telephone, the system's voice recognition mode also allows callers to clearly spell out their state and county to receive the correct six-digit SAME code. The list of codes also is available from the NWS on the world wide web at http://www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr

The first brand of the new SAME-capable receiver is sold by Radio Shack, and other brands of receivers with the SAME feature are expected to be sold by electronics manufacturers in the next year.

Following a tornado that killed more than 20 people in a rural Alabama church on Palm Sunday in 1994, Vice President Al Gore set a goal to make NOAA Weather Radio receivers as common as smoke detectors in American homes and to extend the coverage provided by the NOAA Weather Radio transmitter network to 95 percent of the United States.

Since the Gore NOAA Weather Radio initiative began, the National Weather Service and other members of the Gore task force have been actively promoting public/private sector partnerships to provide the needed resources. More than 50 new weather radio transmitters have been installed since 1994 through grass roots partnerships combining resources of private enterprises, associations, and local, state and federal government agencies.

Broadcast range from most weather radio transmitters is approximately 40 miles. The effective range depends on terrain, quality of the receiver, and indoor/outdoor antennas. Before buying any NOAA Weather Radio receiver, consumers should make sure their area is covered by one of the transmitters.

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Editor's Note: The National Weather Service and King Features Syndicate are using nationally-syndicated comic strip character Mark Trail as the campaign symbol for educating the public about the benefits of owning a tone-alarm NOAA Weather Radio receiver. Color and gray scale images of a Mark Trail NOAA Weather Radio poster are available on the Internet. To download a copy of the image to illustrate this story, contact the National Weather Service Office of Public Affairs. Reporters seeking more information on NOAA Weather Radio or other aspects of the National Weather Service are invited to visit the NWS Public Affairs website at: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/pa