Ham Radio and the Weather
That Handy Talkie you got when you passed your license exam (You did buy a radio, I hope.), is more than just something with which we enjoy in pursuing our hobby. It can be a life saver. First, most two meter, dual-band or tri-band radios are capable of picking up the National Weather Service (NWS) weather radio broadcasts. Some will alert you when severe weather threatens.
My venerable Yaesu VX-100 has all the NWS frequencies pre-programmed. All I have to do is press the number 1 on my radio, and there they are. My first dual-band radio was an older Kenwood HT. It didn’t have any specific button to press to get the weather, but the previous owner had programmed all the frequencies into the radio. Of course, we can’t transmit on them. The radio won’t let you, but we can still listen! Here in the Atlanta area, we receive our weather broadcasts on 162.550 MHz. With my external J-pole antenna, I can receive just about any NWS transmitter in the state. If our Atlanta station goes down, and it has, I can pick up a nearby transmitter. Here are the other NWS frequencies: 162.400, 162.425, 162.450, 162.475, and 162.525.
Some HTs and even base stations may not even advertise that they receive NWS weather broadcasts. Yet, it still might. The best way to find out if yours will is to punch in the nearest frequency (162.550), and see what happens.
I do highly recommend every household have at least one NWS radio. You can pick one up at a department store, home improvement store, or even grocery stores. They can be had for as little as $29.95, and can save your life! Try to get one that has Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME). The NWS transmitters send out alerts for severe weather, and we do get our share here in Georgia. You can set one of these radios to alert you only for the county you are in, or also in neighboring counties as well, if you wish. Mine is set for only Gwinnett County. I belong to ARES, and I am a weather head. When severe weather threatens the area, I receive several alerts. We all need to be aware of bad weather.
Getting back to your HT, you should have programmed your radio for all the repeaters in the area, as well as the simplex channels. When severe weather threatens, tune into your local repeater. Many repeaters host a Skywarn net, or an ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Service) net that will activate. You can monitor severe weather here, too.
Better yet, join your local ARES organization. And learn how to report threatening weather when you encounter it. Here is where we amateurs “pay” for our licenses. When you took your ham radio test, you handed over a small sum or money to take the test. That money goes to help the volunteer examiners buy the supplies necessary to administer the test to you. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) does not charge for amateur radio licenses. Other entities with radio licenses pay big bucks to the FCC for the privilege of transmitting. Ask anyone who owns a radio or television station. It is assumed that in times of emergency the amateur radio community will rise up and provide emergency communications in aid to the general public.
Knowing what to report and how to report is learned in your ARES group. Get involved in ARES. Your actions could save lives!
David Harden, KJ4CMY