NOAA Alert Radio Quick Start Guide

By Jane Terjung and Bill Naylor

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All the preparation in the world won’t help us if we’re ambushed by an emergency. Getting alerted as fast and effectively as possible is an essential part of our survival safety net. Starting with our phones, there are several alerts we can subscribe to—see them listed here. In addition, landline phones are automatically subscribed to AlertLA, and Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) are sent to any cell phone within a specific geographic region, including visitors to an area. For more information on “How To Get Alerted,” WHAT IF WE LOSE POWER OR WE’VE MUTED OUR PHONES? For years, folks lobbied for canyon-wide sirens to wake us if needed, and it never went anywhere. This year’s free NOAA Alert Radio is an improvement on this situation. Many of us got one from the County and some of us got one from Canyon SAGES. But anyone can buy their own: the same model or fancier versions that run on solar and/or hand-cranked but make sure it’s a S.A.M.E (“Specific Area Message Encode”) brand ($92). AN ALERT RADIO IS OUR PERSONAL SIREN. The NOAA Alert Radio serves to close an important gap in our emergency safety net. Its primary asset is its ability to wake us up in an emergency, especially if our home has lost power (as in the Woolsey Fire) and we may not be receiving any of the other phone alerts we have signed up for (AlertLA, MyShake, TCEP, Twitter, etc.) Also, many of us mute our phones at night and could sleep through those phone alerts. BY PERSONAL, WE MEAN ALL OF L.A. COUNTY. Have you looked at a map lately? L.A. County is huge. For those who got their radios up and working in the early days, it alerted us to all the events, like the recent Castaic fire, and later when it screamed out a Flood-O-Rama Thunderstorm in the San Gabriel mountains. For folks with small children and freakable dogs, it can be a pain, but the powers that be are working on making the defined area smaller than the whole county. For now, if it’s a false alarm, just rejoice that it’s not in your backyard. WHAT IT DOES NOT DO. It does not get AM/FM stations. It cannot be used to call anyone else. It lives and breathes just to wake us up in an emergency. But what about the weather report or the message that comes in with an alert? It does have some information but it’s not the most useful source of local, detailed information. BONUS TIP: IT WORKS BEST WITH A BUDDY RADIO. We added a bedside AM/FM radio ($10) that’s pre-tuned to KNX-AM 1070 so that we can quickly and easily check on the location of the L.A. County NOAA alert to see if there are any evacuations for our zone. Some folks tell us they’ll just use their car radio, but we’d rather stay inside (away from possible embers or earthquake hazards). If the alert is about the Outer Mongolia region of L.A. County, we plan to go back to sleep. CARE & FEEDING of YOUR ALERT RADIO. Because we live in a canyon with hills and such, getting proper radio reception may be a challenge for some of us. To successfully receive NOAA Radio emergency alerts, setting your radio up in the right place is essential. This means two things: first, that the radio gets the signal, and second, that you can hear it. SUCCESSFULLY SETTING UP YOUR RADIO 1. Find a good spot Get as close to your bedroom as possible Hit the Weather/Snooze button and listen for a strong weather report Find the closest electrical outlet (or buy an extension cord) If you fail, see below 2. Plug it in and keep it that way Batteries only last 6 hours (being actively used), or up to 3 days (waiting in standby for alerts). 3. Will it wake you up? It comes programmed for the “VOICE” Alert, an 8-second wee-waw-wee-waw (too wimpy for our ears) To hear the louder “TONE” Alert, a 3-minute wake the dead siren, see “Alert Test” on page 6 in the manual. Need it louder (like us)? Switch to “TONE”: See page 5 in the manual. Bill and I switched to the “TONE” siren since our radio was far away from our bedroom. The VOICE siren is immediately followed by the current 3-minute weather broadcast, which we could not understand from afar. Once alerted and awake, we can hit Weather/Snooze to silence the siren and then again to hear the current emergency broadcast. You can also add “pillow shakers” that are available free from the County: contact Canyon Sages or Megan Currier. 4. Confirm it’s working Every Sunday check to see if it’s flashing and beeping. If it is flashing and beeping, then it is telling you it failed the Wednesday weekly signal test, which tells you to find a place with better reception or add an antenna. Having Problems? You can buy a $25 antenna. We bought one you can try before you buy to own Caution: antennas often don’t solve the problem. ( LONG-TERM MAINTENANCE Once a year, replace the batteries. Dusting, while optional, sends a subtle message of emergency superiority. PROGRAMMING YOUR RADIO 1. If you got a free one at a giveaway event It should be all programmed and ready to go once you insert batteries and plug it in. Maybe change the Alert Type from “VOICE” to “TONE” (louder & longer): see page 5 in the manual. If you’re a perfectionist who also wants the time set, see page 1 in the manual. 2. If you bought your own radio See the manual for programming For “CHANNEL,” Topanga and Calabasas work best with Channel 7. Malibu and Palisades might be best using Channels 7 or 4. 3. POWER OUTAGE BLACKOUT ALARM If nothing works, we have a band-aid for an early alert solution—get a Power-Outage Blackout Alarm. In wild and wooly Topanga and some parts of Malibu, a middle-of-the-night power outage may be the first sign of disaster and if other parts of our safety net fail, it may be all that wakes us up. We found the *cutest* little gadget ($20) that just plugs into an electrical outlet near our bed. If the power fails, it screams out just like a smoke alarm.

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September 30, 2022