State offers free alert radios to at-risk residents

HANCOCK COUNTY — State and local officials are offering thousands of free weather radios they say will give residents quick and accurate warnings in the event of an emergency.

The Indiana Department of Homeland Security recently distributed 4,800 all-hazard weather radios to emergency management departments in each of the state’s 92 counties to hand out to those in need in their communities.

The radios were paid for with federal grant dollars, making then free to Hoosiers. The radios broadcast up-to-date information from the National Weather Service warning residents when severe weather is headed their way.

Hancock County has been allotted about 40 radios to hand out, and local emergency management leaders are hoping to target residents who live in structures vulnerable to damage from powerful storms, such as mobile homes.

George Boaz, Hancock County Emergency Management deputy director, said relying only on smartphones, televisions or computers for weather updates is risky; cell towers and electrical lines can be downed by severe weather, leaving the user without a means of receiving warnings and updates a radio can provide.

The all-hazard radios sound loudly with storm warnings from the National Weather Service, and users can program the devices to go off only for the alerts of their choosing, Boaz said. The radios can be plugged into the wall and have a battery backup if they power fails, and the alarm is loud enough to wake a sleeping person.

“It’s the closest thing you can find to foolproof,” Boaz said.

The effort to equip residents with warning systems coincides with severe weather season, which in Indiana runs from March until June. That’s when changes in temperatures are most likely to spark a severe thunderstorm or tornado, said Amanda Lee, a representative with National Weather Service in Indianapolis.

Hancock County has seen 21 tornadoes since 1950; with the exception of five, all of those twisters occurred between March and June, National Weather Services records show.

State officials say the all-hazard radios are the best tool for Hoosiers to receive accurate and timely alerts about bad weather year-round. Such devices give residents time to get to safety before a storm hits, John Erickson, the state’s homeland security director of public information, said in a news release.

“Early warning can help citizens make informed decisions and take appropriate action to increase their safety,” Erickson said.

The radios will be handed out, first come, first served, but local officials say they are focusing their efforts on those living in mobile and prefabricated homes or whose homes aren’t near a tornado siren.

Those citizens and their properties have a greater risk of danger and damage should severe weather hit, Boaz said.

Radios available

Hancock County Emergency Management has 40 all-weather radios to give away to area residents. People living in manufactured homes or other vulnerable structures (like mobile homes) will be given preference. If you would like a radio, call 317-477-1188 or email emermgmt@hancockcoingov.org.

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Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.