OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Weather radios received much use during last week's snowstorm and aren't just for Oklahoma's tornado season any more, a National Weather Service official said.
Rick Smith, the service's warning coordination meteorologist in Norman, said the weather radios now are used for snowstorms, wildfires, such as the ones that plagued Oklahoma early this year, and terrorists attacks. They can even serve in broadcasting Amber Alerts, he said.
``Weather radio can be considered a direct pipeline into the National Weather Service office,'' Smith said. ``It's not just for weather any more. People shouldn't just think of it as a tornado warning. It really is truly an all-hazards radio.''
Weather radios are particularly valuable during power failures, when people might not have access to weather information from television broadcasts, he said.
``We think they are as important as a smoke detector here,'' Smith said. ``In Oklahoma, if you have a smoke detector you should have a weather radio.''
The federal Department of Homeland Security has taken that thought a step further, announcing in September that it would ship free weather radios to every school in the U.S., said Bruce Thomas, the chief meteorologist and spokesman for Midland Radio in Kansas City, Missouri.
Newer models of weather radios, including those with the Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME) system, allow users to choose specific counties from which they wish to receive weather updates.
Oklahoma Emergency Management Department spokeswoman Michelann Ooten said that agency will offer seminars this spring and fall to help teach people how to properly program their weather radios.
``They are our friend, especially if you don't have them programmed to go off in every county in the state at 2 in the morning,'' Ooten said. ``We recommend to have multiple layers of warning systems and the ... radio is a tool that is essential for all Oklahomans to have.
``The more information you can have ahead of the weather hazard, the more lives that can be saved.''