While spring is often referred to as “tornado season” in Illinois, tornadoes can strike at any time of the day or night and in any month of the year. At 4:56 a.m. on Feb. 29, 2012, a deadly tornado struck the Southern Illinois towns of Harrisburg and Ridgway while many people were still sleeping. Eight people were killed and more than 100 others were injured. Several survivors credited weather alert radios for warning them of the approaching hazard and giving them time to seek shelter before the tornado struck.
Because of this life safety issue, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA), the Illinois Emergency Services Management Association (IESMA) and the National Weather Service (NWS) recommend that homes and businesses have a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather alert radio with battery backup, a tone-alert feature and Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME) technology.
In an effort to increase public awareness of weather alert radios, local and state emergency management officials have launched a statewide contest. The Illinois Emergency Services Management Association (IESMA) and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) are sponsoring the “Weather Alert Radios Save Lives” contest, in which participants will take an online quiz for a chance to win one of 100 weather alert radio to be awarded.
"Receiving timely warnings of approaching severe weather, especially at night, is critical to saving lives," said Palatine Emergency Management Coordinator and IESMA Region 3 Vice President Tom Smith.
The contest will be highlighted throughout March, which is Severe Weather Preparedness Month in Illinois.
The contest is available on the Ready Illinois website (www.Ready.Illinois.gov), the IESMA website (www.iesma.org) and on the Palatine Emergency Management Agency website (www.palatine-ema.org). A total of 100 weather alert radios will be awarded to participants who register after reading information about the radios and successfully complete a five-question quiz. The contest runs from Feb. 28 through March 31. Winners will be announced in April.
“Having a weather alert radio in your home can be a real lifesaver, much like a smoke detector or a carbon monoxide detector,” said IEMA Director Jonathon Monken. “Each of these devices can alert you to hazards, even while you’re sleeping, and give you time to get to a safe place.”
The NWS broadcasts weather advisories, watches and warnings when severe weather is approaching or expected. The broadcasts cannot be heard on a simple AM/FM radio receiver. There are many receiver options, ranging from handheld portable units that just pick up weather alert radio broadcasts, to desktop and console models that receive weather alert radio as well as other broadcasts.
Even if you are not one of the lucky hundred that win the weather radio, you can still purchase a weather radio at many retail outlets, including electronics, department, pharmacies, sporting goods, and boat and marine accessory stores and their catalogs. They can also be purchased via the Internet by searching Google, key words “weather radios” and find numerous makes, models and price ranges from online retailers or directly from manufacturers.
Finally, IEMA and the NWS developed a “Severe Weather Preparedness Guide”, which provides information about tornadoes, severe storms, lightning and flooding and recommended actions to take before, during and after each of these weather events.
The guide also includes definitions of important weather terms, including watches, warnings and advisories and a list of items needed for a family emergency supply kit. It is available on the Ready Illinois website at www.Ready.Illinois.gov.