Government plans to provide hazard warning radios to every public school

Published 25 September 2006

When a tornado or a hurricane hits, there is a higher risk of loss of life in places where a large number of people congregate — schools, for example; the U.S. government has decided to equip tens of thousands of public schools with emergency radios so that school administration learns early of an impending disaster and usher the students to safety

Here is a small business opportunity for the fleet of foot: There are 97,000 public schools in the United States and today the government will announce that it plans to provide all of them with hazard warning radios. The purpose of the radios is to allow school administrators to learn of approaching peril such as a tornado, hurricane, flood, or fire, but also of terrorism, abducted children, and derailed trains carrying toxic materials so they could alert students and teachers to seek shelter.

There are plenty of warnings to go around. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) pointed out that more than 10,000 major thunderstorms, 2,500 floods, and 1,000 tornadoes hit the United States annually, and that hurricanes threaten the Gulf and East coasts. The National Weather Service, which is part of NOAA, operates more than 950 short-range radio stations. It has encouraged schools, businesses, and homeowners to buy warning radios that are activated with a broadcast signal that automatically turns a radio on and announces a potential hazard.

DHS will provide $5 million to make sure these radios are in every public school. The radios operate 24-hours-a-day, receiving forecasts and warnings from the Weather Service’s 123 forecast offices as well as other information. Six states — Washington, Tennessee, North Carolina, Maryland, Florida, and Mississippi — already mandate use of the radios in schools. NOAA said those schools will also be included in the new program to make sure they have the most recent models. Also included will be tribal schools and public schools in U.S. territories.

Typically the radios are smaller than a clock radio, have a battery backup in case of power loss and are sold at electronic and other stores for $20 to $80. Most can be programmed to respond only to warnings for a specific area — a county or city, for example. The NOAA radio system covers about 97 percent of the country with the few gaps in some sparsely populated mountain areas.

-read more in this AP report