Weather Bulletins by Phone Seem Smart Backup Plan

By Bauerlein, David | The Florida Times Union, July 25, 2010 | Go to article overview

Weather Bulletins by Phone Seem Smart Backup Plan


Bauerlein, David, The Florida Times Union


Byline: DAVID BAUERLEIN

Duval County residents and businesses wanting to get National Weather Service bulletins of hazardous weather can sign up for a free service that sends the alerts straight to their telephones.

It's a no-cost alternative to buying weather radios for National Weather Service alerts.

The Duval County Emergency Operations Center began offering the service this year as part of the Code Red notification system. So far, about 10,000 applicants have registered phone numbers for the Code Red weather alerts.

As hurricane season gets more active - witness the recent arrival of Tropical Storm Bonnie - the ability to get real-time updates from the National Weather Service can make a difference when every second counts.

One way to stay informed around-the-clock is by using weather radios that pick up broadcasts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the federal agency that houses the National Weather Service. The weather service produces the alerts of hazardous weather.

To hear the alerts via radio, people must purchase radios with the special receivers. The weather radios are sold at various retail outlets. The cost of a standalone receiver will range from $20 to $100, according to the National Weather Service. When an alert is broadcast, the weather radio squeals like an alarm - loud enough to wake someone - and then relays the prerecorded message.

The Code Red weather alerts operate in similar fashion, but the warning is communicated via telephone rather than radio. The "alarm" is the phone ringing. People pick up the phone and hear the alert. The weather alerts are for thunderstorm warnings, flash flood warnings and tornado warnings.

The Code Red weather alert system isn't intended to replace weather radios, said Mo Braren, senior planner for operations at the Duval County Emergency Operations Center.

"It's to augment it," he said. "Some people don't want to spend $35 for a weather radio."

Though the weather alerts are a new feature, the Code Red system has been operating in Duval County for several years. Neighboring counties also have the basic Code Red system, which enables emergency authorities to quickly send pre-recorded messages to targeted areas by mass-calling telephone numbers in the area. The messages can involve evacuations, alerts about missing children, information about criminal activity, and other issues of public safety.

For that basic service, Code Red uses phone numbers listed in the White Pages. …

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