Starting this summer, weather alert radios
will give listeners more than just warnings about foul weather
By Eliot Kleinberg
Palm Beach Post
Those weather alert radios that grab your attention when a
tornado or other weather emergency is at hand soon will be
able to tell you whether a child has been snatched or a flipped
tanker on Florida's Turnpike is spewing chlorine gas.
The National Weather Service has received permission
from the Federal Communications Commission to broadcast nonweather
alerts on the special radios starting June 30.
Transmissions are accompanied by specific codes
that trigger the special radios. Police or emergency managers
that want to send out messages have the codes and computer
connections to the system.
People who want to hear the nonweather messages
will have to get new radios that will be available later this
spring. Current radios will show only an ``unknown alert.''
The new setup has nothing to do with the system
now used with broadcast stations. Virtually every station
in Florida is part of the state's Emergency Alert System,
and has agreed to broadcast emergency messages. Some stations
have triggers in which any weather alert automatically interrupts
programming. Other stations have agreed to have an engineer
or other person make the call.
Nonweather messages are handled separately,
since they don't come from the weather service, but they also
have certain codes that could trigger an automatic interruption
on a broadcast station.
''Amber Alerts'' for missing kids usually come
through local law authorities or the Florida Department of
Law Enforcement. Emergencies such as a chlorine spill would
go through local emergency managers. Both weather and emergency
officials have set high standards for when to trigger an alert,
said Herb White, who runs the program for the National Weather
''That is something that's always on our minds,''
White said. We understand the phenomenon of false alarms