Saturday, July 18, 2009

Weather radios

A friend recently sent a link to this desktop weather alert radio, which is manufactured by a company called Reecom. Reading through the manual, it has a few features that make it slightly nicer than the Midland WR-300 I'm using now, the most significant of which to me are the ability for it to turn off at the end of the alert message (the Midland continues to babble at you until you walk over and whack the 'silence' button, which is somewhat annoying) and the ability to select different audible alerts for different messages. I'm not immediately in the market for another weather radio (for no other reason than that my virtually nonexistent income at the moment doesn't support nondiscretionary spending), but this looks like it might be a good additional radio (I've wanted a second one so that the alerts can be heard through the entire house instead of just in the back, which is the effect with the current radio in its current location).

We originally got this radio because we realized that we cannot hear the alert sirens inside the house, and given that we rarely listen to broadcast radio and watch nearly all of our television via TiVo did not have any means to receive weather alerts in real time. I'd rather not find out about a tornado when it rips the roof off the house.

I'm also interested in options that will capture the message off the air and make it available to a computer. The Reecom radio (and the WR-300) can be used to detect that an alert is active, but without hacking the radio I don't know how to get the details of the alert (e.g. type of alert, duration, affected areas) into the computer. I could, of course, obtain this information from the NWS's website, but that's not much help if the network is down. I assume that there's a specification somewhere for decoding the EAS data bursts, and that someone has written code for this. Just haven't found it yet. Not to mention it'd be nice if I didn't have to dedicate a whole soundcard to that (that is, a hardware solution would be much nicer than a software one).