Choosing NOAA Broadcast Frequencies

buried radio

Weather alerts and weather channels are basic features that every two-way radio offers. These broadcasts can be lifesaving in serious weather conditions such as tornadoes. But many people don’t know how these stations work, or how important choosing NOAA broadcast frequencies are or how to find the right one. If you don’t know how to select the right frequency for your area, or how to use an emergency weather radio, then you came to the right place. Below, I’ll go over the frequencies available, how to choose the correct station for your area, and even how you can set your radio up to get the latest information and all of the important weather alerts and updates.

VHF Band Designated Radio Frequencies

On the VHF band that’s specifically designated for NOAA weather, there are a total of seven radio frequencies to choose from. Each of these frequencies are used by a network of transmitters that are located all over the country and designed to broadcast weather alerts, warnings and general information, seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day. Some models of two-way radios may even come with a few additional channels to choose from. Two of these channels are for marine weather reports for Canada.

Below, you’ll find the list of NOAA frequencies:

  • 162.550
  • 162.525
  • 162.500
  • 162.475
  • 162.450
  • 162.425
  • 162.400

There are no standard channels assigned for frequencies for a two-way radio. For example, the 162.400 weather frequency can be assigned to the first channel on one radio and assigned to channel number three on a different model. Most two-way radio manufacturers will assign the stations to a channel at their discretion. This can be a little confusing, however, the question concerning which frequency can be found on what channel is often easily resolved by looking at the radio’s user manual. Most manufacturers will print off a list of the channels to choose from, in addition to instructions that will discuss how to access them.

When it comes to picking a station, what matters the most is which frequency is the most relevant in your area.

You can do a little research by visiting the National Weather Service website. The NOAA Weather radio site features an extensive list of every frequency found in the country.

If you want to search for a transmitter that’s the most relevant, based on your location, you can go about this in a couple of different way. First, on the site, click on your state and find the name of a city that’s the closest to you. Write down the call sign, in addition to the corresponding frequency. Click on the call sign and it will direct you to another page that includes a geographical map that displays the frequency’s coverage and more details concerning the transmitter.

The other option is to go to the NWR transmitter site and enter the state, an area, or the name of the city, in the site’s search box, then click on the icon that’s displayed on a map for more information about the transmitter.

When you know the right frequency of the transmitter in your area, then all you have to do is locate the channel in your radio that’s programmed to that frequency, then activate it based on the instructions found in the user’s manual. That’s it.

Catching Important Weather Alerts

Tuned into weather

Having one of these radios in your workplace or home can save lives. These radios are designed to broadcast special weather reports that will alert people of inclement weather heading their way. Some models of weather radios can be set to silent but are designed to automatically turn on when certain warnings are broadcasted.

These days, you can’t really rely on TV programs to warn you of an incoming tornado if the power goes out. Most models of weather radios will come with a battery backup, so they’ll still work and can instantly alert you if inclement weather is detected.

Relying on one of these radios to keep you informed can potentially save your life. Weather radios are made to broadcast on certain frequencies in order to alert listeners to inclement weather and other types of natural disasters. The weather radio you buy can be set to silent until a warning of your choice occurs, at which point, it will alert you.

These weather broadcasts cannot be heard using your basic AM/FM radio receiver. Instead, you need to use a dedicated weather radio. A weather radio, one that’s highly adjustable can be used for all weather reports, or you can consult your user’s manual and learn how to adjust the settings so that you will only receive weather alerts and bulletins for your area.

Alert Options

If you’ve never used a weather radio before, then learning about the wide variety of emergency, advisory, and warning alerts can be confusing and even overwhelming, especially if you haven’t adjusted your radio to receive specific types of alerts. These radios are designed to alert you to natural disasters and severe weather warnings. While all alerts are very important and should be taken seriously, if they’re occurring hundreds of miles away from you, then receiving these alerts several times a week may make you stop taking notice once an important warning for your area is released. This is another reason why it’s crucial that you choose the correct frequency.

Below, I’ll go over some basic alerts you can expect, in order to help you choose the alerts you want to receive.

Watch

A watch alert is used for hazardous weather. This type of alert will inform you of a significant threat, but the details of the probability, location, and time of the occurrence are not certain. When a watch is issued, immediate action is not required, however, it is still important to be prepared. These alerts are often issued several hours before a serious weather event is expected. In some cases, the watch will be upgraded to a warning.

Warning

These alerts require you to take action and involve an event that poses serious risk. Warnings are used for events that are considered urgent.

Advisory

This type of warning is reserved for less severe weather events, such as an ice storm or freezing rain. If you’re tuned to the right frequency in your area, then you’ll often receive this type of alert the most often. These alerts will come in handy if you live in a part of the country that’s prone to hail storms and snow.

Emergency

These alerts are intended for events that can indirectly cause other types of hazards. As an example, there may be a power outage in your area.

Programmable Alerts

When setting up your radio to locate the correct frequency for your area, you can also choose the types of alerts you want to receive, based on your location. This will help to cut down on the number of alerts you receive and instead, you will only receive the ones that can directly impact you and your family.

Broadcast Range

The frequency you choose will also depend on your radio’s broadcasting range.

For a 1000-watt full-power transmitter, the normal broadcasting range over a level terrain is about forty miles. The range will be very dependent on whether you use an outdoor or indoor antenna, the quality of the receiver, the transmitting antenna’s quality, the power and height of the antenna, and the terrain. Before your buy a receiver, make sure the area you live in is covered by one of the transmitters.

Marine Radio Use

You can also pick up NOAA weather radio on marine radios, as long as they have the weather channels.

Signal Quality

When trying to use a weather radio station, many users will complain about the strength of a signal. While the range for a frequency is approximately forty miles, reception often varies depending on atmospheric conditions. Changes in signal strength are often more noticeable near the edges of a coverage area.

However, there are many things that can have a negative impact on reception, including deserts, forests, and large bodies of water. Additionally, mountains and hilly terrain can also reduce reception. Because of concrete and steel, reception strength in cities can also be affected. Low-priced weather radios tend to struggle more with reception issues, while higher-priced models often come equipped with an external antenna, which can significantly improve reception strength.

Final Thoughts

By fine-tuning your weather radio and adjusting the types of alerts you receive based on your location, you will be able to stay up to date with current weather conditions in your area, for a range of approximately forty miles. Choosing NOAA broadcast frequencies will depend on where you live. If you’ve recently purchased a weather radio, then consult the user’s manual for information regarding frequency options, or head to the NOAA website where you can search for the correct frequency for your area using a process that’s fast and easy. If you’re not sure you have coverage in your city, make sure you visit the site prior to purchasing a new radio.

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