This article comes with a bit of sleep depravation, as a good part of my night last night was spent on tornado watch. This morning finds our little town strewn with downed trees and spotty electrical service. The whole night was spent in darkness, trying to see what was going on outside by using the brightest spotlight we have. More than once, I could hear the beginnings of that telltale sound of a freight train that often indicates the approach of a tornado. Thankfully, they settled down within a minute or two.
Tornados have formed in every Province and Territory of Canada, and have been recorded in every month except December. Those facts alone should make you aware, at least to some degree, that tornados can happen pretty much anywhere, at any time. That being said, there is a tornado season in Canada, and we’re currently in it. Tornado season in Canada runs from April to September, with most occurring in June and July.
Being aware of possible tornadoes is paramount and pretty easy to do these days. Canada now has a warning system that will alert most cell phones, even some models of older technology “flip phones”. Although a great idea, this system is not failproof as high winds could easily damage nearby cell phone towers. This alert feature may also need to be turned on in your phone’s settings.
As a backup, weather radio services offered by the NOAA and available in most regions of Canada is a great idea. While many handheld amateur radios can receive weather radio broadcasts, having a dedicated weather alert radio with SAME (Specific Area Message Encoding) technology can alert you to a number of alerts when programmed properly. These radios sit quietly on a desk or shelf until an alert comes in for your area.
When choosing a weather radio, look for the following features:
- Mains/rechargeable battery power
- Alternate charging ability (crank or solar)
- SAME capable
- Extra features (built in LED light, USB output for charging devices, etc.)
- AM/FM broadcast receive
Mains + rechargeable battery power is handy. You can simply plug the unit into mains power and not worry about dead batteries. At the same time, if mains power is disconnected, the battery will take over powering the unit. In addition, an alternate charging ability can keep the unit powered when batteries have also died.
Most weather radios are portable these days, but there are some on the market that just aren’t easy to pack away, especially in a hurried bug out situation. Look for something that can be grabbed quickly and taken with you.
SAME capabilities are important. Without Specific Area Message Encoding, one would have to be listening to the radio at all times to be aware of a dangerous event. When programmed, SAME capable radios will “listen” for an alert that carries your specific area’s code. Most will also allow you to program what kinds of alerts will sound the alarm. You may decide to ignore watches and only get notified of warnings. If you live uphill or away from bodies of water, you may choose to ignore flood warnings as they may not be of interest to you.
Extra features such as AM/FM broadcast or USB output are great extras to have. While these features are not really meant to be primary systems you rely on, they do make great additions for the “one is none, two is one” mindset. Broadcast radio stations may relay information such as closed roads or emergency services contact info. A USB output can come in handy to top off your cell phone. If you find one with an LED light built in, well, who couldn’t use an extra source of light.
While the model I purchased years ago by Eaton, it is sadly no longer available for sale. There is, however, a similar model that Eaton put out for the American Red Cross, that fits all the above features and a few more…At this point, this radio is my personal recommendation. Pick one up now, they’re not just for tornado season, but will come in handy for most situations, all year long.