Cover Story: Advanced warning - NOAA Weather radios

By Jeff Atkinson - bio | email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Wednesday brought another day of severe weather to the Carolinas.  For a lot of parents at work -- this severe weather can be a scary thing. Especially when it unfolds while our kids are out of our care and someone else is watching them.

PrimeTime's Jeff Atkinson has been looking into that and looks at what are schools and daycares are doing to make sure kids are kept safe.

One easy thing they can do.. is make sure they have one of these.. a weather radio.. that automatically goes off when severe weather happens.. when a tornado warning or watch goes off.

But we found today.. not every group has one.. and even after a presidential challenge--- they're still not as common as smoke detectors.

"Weather radio's over here.. to alert us to bad weather."

It was one of the first things Jeannie Noble bought when the Childrens Lighthouse Learning Center on Monroe Road in Matthews began taking in kids a couple years ago.

A weather radio.

"We just thought it would be a good asset to have at the center," she says.

"The National Weather Service has issued a tornado warning.."

Designed to go off when severe weather strikes.. NOAA weather radios are credited with saving thousands of lives each year.  Having an advanced notice.. an early warning.. gives one time to prepare and take cover.

It was her kids safety that convinced Jeannie Noble to invest in one.

But when she started asking around.. asking other day cares whether they had a weather radio.. most of them didn't.. and that surprised her.

"Without the knowledge of knowing something's coming how do you protect the children that you serve?" says Noble.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and Charlotte Catholic Schools both tell us.. every school has a weather radio on campus.

After school hours, they say they make sure someone's staffed in the office to monitor-- and most importantly relay the message... in case bad weather breaks out.

After a tornado that killed more than 20 people in a church in rural Alabama on Palm Sunday in 1994, Vice President Al Gore set a goal to make NOAA weather radios as common as smoke detectors.

15 years later.. they're not in every American home.

Although they're not that expensive.. some as cheap as 20-bucks.

WBTV.. in partnership with Bi-Lo grocery stores right now selling them for 34.99.

Beyond weather-- radios also broadcast warnings for natural disasters.. like earthquakes or avalanches..  Environmental dangers.. like chemical releases or oil spills..  And public safety messages.. such as AMBER alerts or 911 outages.

Jeannie Noble's daycare has two weather radios.

"It's a really good tool. It's nice to be able to be on top of the weather.. and it's good to be able to protect the students.. what we're here for.. their safety."

Schools we checked with have weather radios.. however, if your child's in daycare you may want to check there.. they may not have one.

If your child's in an after-school program.. make sure they have a play to relay the warning if it goes off..

And as you know, most of the bad weather we seem to get here in the Carolians in the summertime happens in the afternoon.. after school's out.

Good idea to have one in your home, of course..

This is critical, 80-percent of all tornado-related fatalities occur at night.