Emergency radio coming to area

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— An emergency radio broadcast system is scheduled to be up and running in Northwest Colorado within the next month.

The station will be called the All-Hazards NOAA Weather Radio, or NWR, and is a service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

NOAA and the Department of Homeland Security partnered in July 2004 to use NOAA's weather radio as the primary warning system for the United States.

Northwest Colorado is the last region in the state to receive the service.

"The purpose of NOAA weather radio is to notify people of impending danger," said NOAA's Jim Pringle. "It's not only weather warnings. It's also for any type of hazard that may exist."

For example, if a flash flood warning is issued for the Hayden area, NOAA's Grand Junction office can transmit the warning to Northwest Colorado's transmitter, and people listening to their receivers will automatically receive an alarm and the warning, Pringle said.

Parts are on order for the transmitter, which will be erected on Walton Peak.

"We hope to have it up and operating by the end of September, or, at the latest, October," Pringle said. "(The installers) don't want to deal with snow going up there and for installation."

The service area includes Routt County, Jackson County, extreme eastern Moffat County and western Grand County. Signal quality is expected to be stronger near communities and in Routt and Jackson counties.

The planned frequency for the NWR broadcast is 162.525 MHz, but it will not be picked up on a commercial AM/FM receiver, such as a car radio. People will have to purchase a scanner or a dedicated weather radio receiver to pick up the emergency broadcast.

Pringle said those receivers are reasonably priced and can be found at electronic stores or online. He said he purchased his non-programmable receiver for $12 online.

Pringle suggested purchasing a programmable receiver so the listener can select which warnings he or she wants to receive. Otherwise, people will receive all warnings issued in the four-county area.

"If you live in Steamboat Springs and you don't want to hear about a flash flood around Kremmling or Walden or Craig, you can program your receiver so it will only activate for warnings in the area," Pringle said.

Radio and television systems linked to the Emergency Alert System with an encoder/decoder also will receive a digital code and can cut into their broadcast with the emergency signal and message, Pringle said.

But people will have to be listening to those radio stations, and those stations will have to broadcast the signal in order to receive the emergency message. NOAA weather radio issues warnings automatically.

Nonweather emergencies also will be broadcast on the NOAA weather radio if official municipalities choose to do so. Chuck Vale, director of the Routt County Office of Emergency Management, was one of the men who helped bring the NOAA weather radio to the area.

Yampa Valley Electric Association received a grant that paid for most of the project, Pringle said. Jim Buford, who runs www.steamboatweather.com, also played an integral role in obtaining matching funds to finish the project.

"People in Northwest Colorado owe a large debt of gratitude to these people," Pringle said.

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