Saturday, March 02, 2013
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Online contest launched to raise awareness of weather alert radios

Local, state emergency management officials to encourage severe weather preparedness in March

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[March 02, 2013]  SPRINGFIELD -- Last year a deadly tornado tore through the southern Illinois communities of Harrisburg and Ridgway on Feb. 29 shortly before 5 a.m. With most people still sleeping, many didn't hear the outdoor warning sirens blaring or warnings issued on radio and TV stations. Eight people lost their lives and more than 100 others were injured as a result of the tornado. Fortunately, some residents were awakened by alarms broadcast over their weather alert radios and were able to seek shelter before the tornado hit.

In an effort to increase public awareness of weather alert radios, local and state emergency management officials launched a statewide contest this week. The Illinois Emergency Services Management Association and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency are sponsoring the "Weather Alert Radios Save Lives" contest, in which participants will take an online quiz for a chance to win one of 100 weather alert radios to be awarded.

The contest will be highlighted throughout March, which is Severe Weather Preparedness Month in Illinois.

"Having a weather alert radio in your home can be a real lifesaver, much like a smoke detector or a carbon monoxide detector," said IEMA Director Jonathon Monken. "Each of these devices can alert you to hazards, even while you're sleeping, and give you time to get to a safe place."

The contest is available on the Ready Illinois website, the IESMA website 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.

"Every home and business should have a weather alert radio," said Russ Thomas, president of the Illinois Emergency Services Management Association

IESMA purchased the weather alert radios as part of a program to increase emergency preparedness in local schools, hospitals, nursing homes, extended-care facilities and government buildings throughout Illinois. During 2013 and 2014, the association plans to place 800 weather alert radios in local facilities.

The National Weather Service and state and local emergency management officials strongly encourage people to have a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Radio All Hazards with battery backup, a tone-alert feature and Specific Area Message Encoding technology, known as SAME, which allows the radio to be programmed to receive alerts for specified counties. When an alert is issued for the programmed area, the device will sound a warning alarm tone followed by the broadcast message.

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Besides weather information, the National Weather Service 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.

"Despite the drought last year, Illinois still had dozens of tornadoes and hundreds of severe thunderstorms that damaged property, injured 125 and tragically killed nine people," said Chris Miller, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Lincoln. "This underscores how important it is for people to be prepared at all times. You should identify a place at home and work to take shelter from tornadoes and severe thunderstorms, and have multiple ways to receive hazardous weather information, such as apps for electronic devices or a weather alert radio."

To help with preparedness, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather Service have developed a Severe Weather Preparedness Guide, which provides information about tornadoes, severe storms, lightning and flooding, along with 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 or by calling 217-785-9925.

[Text from Illinois Emergency Management Agency file received from the Illinois Office of Communication and Information]

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