SPRINGFIELD—Local and state emergency management officials this week launched a statewide contest aimed at increasing awareness and use of weather alert radios. 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 complete an online quiz for a chance to win a weather alert radio.
The contest will be highlighted throughout March, which is Severe Weather Preparedness Month in Illinois.
“2011 was one of the worst years for tornado deaths in the U.S. in the past 60 years,” IEMA Director Jonathon Monken said. “Fortunately, Illinois didn’t experience these terrible storms, but we never know when or where the next deadly storm could strike. Weather alert radios are a key tool for alerting people to approaching danger, day or night, and every home should have one.”
The contest is available on the Ready Illinois website (www.Ready.Illinois.gov), the IESMA website (www.iesma.org) and on many county and municipal emergency management agency websites. A total of 100 weather alert radios will be awarded to participants who register after reading information about the radios and successfully completing a five-question quiz. The contest runs through March 31. Winners will be announced in April.
“Through this contest, we hope to make people in Illinois more aware of the importance of weather alert radios as part of their personal preparedness kit,” IESMA President Chuck Genesio said. “Much like a smoke alarm or carbon monoxide detector alerts people to those dangers, weather alert radios warn people of hazards outside the home so they have time to seek shelter or take other actions to stay safe.”
IESMA purchased the weather alert radios in 2010 and 2011 as part of a program to increase emergency preparedness in local schools, hospitals, nursing homes, extended care facilities and government buildings throughout Illinois. Nearly 7,300 weather alert radios were distributed for placement in these facilities through the program, which was funded with $172,420 in federal homeland security grant funds allocated by the Illinois Terrorism Task Force. The 100 radios distributed as part of the “Weather Alert Radios Save Lives” contest will help Illinois residents better prepare for emergencies.
The National Weather Service (NWS) and state and local emergency management officials strongly encourage people to have a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio All Hazards with battery backup, a tone-alert feature and Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME) technology, which allows the radio to be programmed to receive alerts for specified counties. When an alert is issued for that area, the device will sound a warning alarm tone followed by the broadcast message.
Besides weather information, the NWS also broadcasts warnings and post-event information for all types of hazards, including natural, environmental and public safety hazards, such as earthquakes, chemical spills and AMBER alerts.
“Tornadoes do not just occur during the day,” said Chris Miller, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Lincoln. “In Illinois, 30 percent of all tornadoes occur at night when it can be difficult to hear outdoor warning sirens from inside your home, especially if you are asleep. The best way to be warned about tornadoes at night is to have a weather alert radio in your home. It is like having your own personal storm siren.”
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. The guide is available on the Ready Illinois website at www.Ready.Illinois.gov or by calling (217) 785-9925.