NWS finds some weather radios don't work


John Stehr/Eyewitness News

Howard County - Thousand of Hoosiers have weather radios that may not work when needed most.

The National Weather Service says it may be as simple as antennas that aren't properly extended, but people in Howard County tell 13 Investigates that the problem is much more involved than that.

Some people in Kokomo complained last month that they never got a warning despite a severe weather outbreak. The city doesn't have severe weather sirens, so it provided handheld warning radios at a discounted cost.

A National Weather Service representative met with city leaders Wednesday and tested the handheld radios. He admitted they don't work when the antenna is placed flat down.

"I'm sure the First Alert radio is the same way. If it's down or if the antenna is down it's not going to receive. I think that's just basic radio technology," said Dan McCarthy, NWS.

The NWS says its warning broadcasts and commercial weather radios work together if the radio antennas are properly positioned. But 13 investigates learned that may not be true.

"I feel like I'm intelligent enough to know the antenna has to be up on something like that," said Beth Martin, Kokomo resident.

Martin says her handheld radio doesn't work anywhere indoors, and she doesn't think she should stand in a field holding up the antenna during severe weather.

"I wasn't getting any kind of reception from my weather radio and I thought I was doing something wrong. Yes, I had batteries in it; yes, the antenna was up," she said.

The weather service admits some radios don't work indoors.

"The weather service does not really endorse any of them," said McCarthy.

The advice is to return your radio if you're not happy with it.

"You just have to be on your guard. You have to be prepared for severe weather when it's approaching your area," said McCarthy.

The National Weather Service said its NOAA logo is not placed on weather radios with its permission, but just as a sign that those models are supposed to receive National Weather Service radio broadcasts including watches and warnings. It plans to test the handheld radios again next Wednesday.